Posted on Friday 9th March
After a last blast of winter, look forward to the balmy days of spring! There is no colour quite like the fresh green of vibrant new leaves, and no scent quite like the heady perfume of bluebells. Did you know, the vast majority of all the world’s bluebells are here in England, one of our most well-loved native flowers. Enjoy a wonderful display and woodland walks at Lodge Hill Bluebells.
The creamy swathes of may blossom will be in full glory for the National Forest Walking Festival, 19-31 May. The festival, now in its 11th year, features nearly 100 guided walks in and around the Forest, including a collection of Black to Green walks that explore the transformed landscape, heritage and wildlife of the very heart of the Forest. Join Black to Green on 19 May for a walk that takes you along part of the National Forest Way, our 75-mile long distance trail, as it wends its way through Boothorpe and the vast expanse of land that used to be Rawdon colliery. Other walks will introduce you to the history of the Ashby Canal, sites of the former clay industry and take you along disused railway lines, as you look out for the flora and fauna that over the past two decades have made these reclaimed areas their home.
This summer, experience the Forest in a unique way at our first Timber festival. This major new three-day camping festival will explore the transformative impact of forests through arts, ideas and loads of fun. It will host the English premiere of Jony Easterby’s new work Tree and Wood, and writer and broadcaster Stuart Maconie will open the proceedings in his inimitable witty style. Festival goers can discover what it’s like to be an animal in the forest through Marshmallow Laser Feast’s immersive reality experience In The Eyes of the Animal; youngsters can take part in woody adventures at The Bewonderment Machine; and everyone can enjoy music, aerial acrobatics, Comedy in the Dark, poetry, and woodland art and experiences. Weekend camping and day tickets are available.
As autumn approaches, look forward to blackberry picking and foraging for nuts. It is the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, indeed. This is a wonderful season to get out with your camera, capturing the colour and texture of the Forest. Don’t forget, rain isn’t always bad news! The natural world can look even more vibrant and colourful after a shower. Look out for hidden gems in the autumn landscape: spot magnificent fungi (why not join a foraging walk and benefit from an expert’s ID skills); marvel at spiders’ webs in the morning mist; listen out for hedgehogs preparing to hibernate. Catch the glory of autumn colours in the Forest at the National Trust’s Calke Park, Beacon Hill Country Park, or in the watery reflections of Staunton Harold and Thornton Reservoirs.
In the depths of winter, it’s still a great time to be out enjoying the Forest. Button up warm and have a go at tree identification, looking at the distinctive shape of each species. If we have snow, try your skills at wildlife tracking. You may see fox, rabbit or badger paw prints, or bird prints as they hop through the snow.
If you’re thinking of Christmas, the National Forest Plant a Tree scheme makes a wonderful gift. Purchased online, you choose a design and create your own message for the gift certificate. You’ll be invited to join us for a special tree planting day in the Forest, when you choose your tiny ‘whip’ from a selection of oak, silver birch, wild cherry, lime and rowan. With the help of our foresters, you plant your tree to be part of a woodland that will always be open for you to visit. You are welcome to return over the years, to enjoy the trees throughout the seasons, and watch the birds and wildlife that make the woodland their home.
At the darkest point of the year, we look forward to the snowdrops that are just round the corner. January has hardly begun before we look for one of the most welcome sights of the year, the tiny green shoots of this most delightful flower. One of the most spectacular displays in the Forest is at Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust’s Dimminsdale Nature Reserve. Carpets of these diminutive white blooms cover the woodland floor, lifting our spirits as the sap begins to rise and the Forest bursts into life for another year.
Header image credits, left-to-right, top-to-bottom. 2020 Vision/Ben Hall, Lesley Hextall, National Forest Company/Chris Beech, National Forest Company/Jacqui Rock, 2020 Vision/Fergus Gill, Lesley Hextall, 2020 Vision/Ross Hoddinott & National Forest Company/Chris Beech.