Go green this Christmas with the Woodland Trust’s guide to free winter walks in the north
Are you dreaming of a green Christmas? If so, you’re not alone.
With the cost-of-living crisis biting, a simpler, more environmentally friendly festive celebration is top of many people’s Christmas list this year – with fresh air and free fun on the cards instead of expensive gifts, excess and waste.
With that in mind, the Woodland Trust, the UK’s largest woodland conservation charity, has come up with a guide to its best woods for a glorious – and completely free – winter walk for all the family to enjoy.
The Woodland Trust has more than 1,000 woods which are free to visit and open every day – so you’re spoilt for choice. Even Santa and his reindeer would struggle to get round them all!
This Christmas is a perfect time to embrace the simpler things in life, whether that’s time spent with friends and loved ones, making the most of nature’s magnificent scenery or just getting outdoors and enjoying some fresh air.
Woodland Trust site manager James Jesson said: “If you’d rather not spend the entire festive season overindulging, head out for a woodland adventure. Woodland Trust woods are real winter wonderlands – so whether it’s a crisp, frosty morning or a damp soggy afternoon, it’s great to pull on your boots and thermals or waterproofs and head out for an invigorating stroll.
“Winter woods take on a whole new character. Spectacular, frosty landscapes and bare branches expose elusive wildlife and hidden history. The fact they are all free to visit is just the icing on the Christmas cake!”.
Woodland Trust sites are open all year round so come prepared for nature in its natural state, unmissable views, clean air and birdsong. And by sticking to the woodland paths, you won’t disturb the winter wildlife and you’ll allow nature to thrive in its woodland surroundings.
You can locate your nearest free woodland escape easily - just enter your postcode at woodlandtrust.org.uk/findawood or take a look at the Trust’s pick of the best winter walks from the north of England:
Low Burnhall - Durham
An important haven for people and wildlife on the outskirts of Durham, Low Burnhall is a real beauty. Look out for signs of otters in the rivers which border the site and you might also spy owls, kestrels and sparrowhawks. Waymarked trails lead you past some interesting features – including a sculpture of a miner in a nod to the wood’s historic coal mine.
Hackfall – Grewelthorpe, North Yorkshire
Set in a 350ft gorge along the River Ure on the edge of the village of Grewelthorpe this fragile ancient woodland habitat has been restored since the Woodland Trust took over. Stroll along footpaths and woodland walks and spot grottos and glades, temples and waterfalls as well as kingfisher, dipper and grey wagtail.
Hedley Hall, Sunniside in the North East
A mix of ancient woodland cloaking the slopes of the narrow Ridley Gill, and newer broadleaf planting, Hedley Hall has plenty to keep walkers amused, including babbling streams, birds and woodland sculptures, all within a stone’s throw of the famous Beamish museum. And a new circular route, funded by the Green Recovery Challenge Fund, has opened up access to the site.
Nidd Gorge, North Yorkshire Ancient broadleaf woodland covers the steep cliffs and slopes of Yorkshire’s Nidd Gorge, which is home to more than 80 species of bird and 30 different kinds of mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Take a stroll through the crisp winter wonderland and keep your eye out for roe deer, tawny owls, herons and woodpeckers.
Smithills Estate – Bolton, Lancashire
The Woodland Trust’s largest site is steeped in history and shadowed by the famous Winter Hill TV mast, with panoramic views across to Bolton and Manchester. You’ll really be able to stretch your legs here in its vast expanses of moorland, patches of woodland and peat bog. Keep your eyes peeled for the elusive brown hare on the horizon.