Skip to main content

Walking the National Forest Way (with a two year break)

Remember when it was lockdown and we were all stuck in our houses for months on end? Well, way back then I hatched a plan of walking the National Forest Way as a family project. I ordered the map, downloaded the route guides, and we did the first section in 2021: Yoxall to the National Memorial Arboretum (Stage 12).

The photos tell me it was a beautiful April day - I was wearing shorts! The 5-mile route was pleasant, across fields and through scraps of woodland, then hopping over the Trent and Mersey Canal into the village of Alrewas. After that we had a hair-raising walk along a pavement right next to the A38 dual carriageway, with cars zipping past at 70mph, but fortunately that was a very short section before we turned off towards the National Memorial Arboretum. Of course we had to celebrate with an ice cream - why else would we finish at the Arboretum instead of starting there? 

Smaller boys! Lockdown haircuts!

At the finishing point


A well-deserved treat

There followed a very. long. gap. The next part of the route didn't look that exciting, to be honest; it had been a bit of a hassle parking a car at each end so as to be able to do a one-way walk; and the rest of the family weren't quite as interested in this project as I was.

But the idea never quite went away, so in April this year I dusted off the OS map and realised I could make the next few sections into some nice loops, thus removing the need for two cars. Of course, this meant I couldn't get quite as far along the trail in one go, but that didn't matter.

So, almost two years after walking Stage 12, I set out from Yoxall again, this time heading north for Stage 11. The route was mostly country lanes and fields - not too exciting, but enlivened by a beautiful wood full of daffodils. It had been raining hard so I was glad for wellies. I was also glad that the fords en route came with footbridges; the streams were running too fast for me to attempt them, even in waterproof boots. I had a snack at the picnic area at Jackson's Bank (my turnaround point) and made it back to Yoxall for lunch.


Setting off from Yoxall

Daffodils in Woodmill woods


One of the two fords

The second half of this section took me from Jackson's Bank to the tiny village of Rangemore. It was a gorgeous Easter Saturday with tons of sunshine. Graham and the boys had gone to see the racing at Donington Park, so I had plenty of walking time. The wood near the car park was full of families, but after that first half-mile I hardly saw another person. I disturbed a few pheasants, though!

Jackson's Bank (owned by the Duchy of Lancaster)

First bluebells I've seen this year

NFW waymarkers

There was a regular hum of light aircraft taking off from Tatenhill Airfield. The path ran alongside the airfield, then around St George's Park National Football Centre. Rangemore was quiet, but someone had thoughtfully provided a picnic bench in a square of woodland next to the church. After lunch, I retraced my steps for a mile or so, then ducked onto the Cross Britain Way for a short section. It took me through a very pretty woodland. Then I headed across some fields, with enormous views south, and back to my starting point.

The dome of the National Football Centre

Lunch break!

National Forest in progress

It may well take another two years to reach Beacon Hill - the eastern end of the National Forest Way. But I'm planning out the next few stages, so watch this space. I may even bring the family along on some of it, too.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Bonnie Prince Charlie Walk: Lees to Derby

These final two Bonnie Prince Charlie walks were quite a contrast: the first across empty fields and along quiet roads; the second crossing from country into city as I walked into Derby. I started both walks at the Great Northern Greenway car park, just off Station Road in Mickleover.  Walk 1 In order to keep walking the Bonnie Prince Charlie way in the right direction, I first found my way back to Lees by an alternative route. The first section, along the cycle path, was well paved. After that it quickly got very muddy. At least it's a popular walk from Mickleover to Radbourne, so it was easy to find the path.  St Andrew's, Radbourne, is rather dominated by memorials. It looks as if the preacher would be hemmed in by tombs!      I liked this bench outside, with the text, "The thoughtful soul to solitude retires". Writing this, I only just realised it was a quote. Turns out it's from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam . The rest of the walk certainly provided solitude,

A Place at the Table: Spiritual Formation Book 12

"God has ordained in his great wisdom and goodness that eating, and especially eating in company, should be one of the most profound and pleasurable aspects of being human." Miranda Harris had been intending to write a book for years. She'd got as far as a folder full of notes when she died suddenly in a car accident in 2019. When her daughter, Jo Swinney, found the notes, she decided to bring her mum's dream to fruition. A Place at the Table was the result. I thought this was going to be a nice friendly book about having people over for dinner. In one sense it is, but it's pretty hard-hitting as well. Miranda and her husband Peter co-founded the environmental charity A Rocha, so the book doesn't shy away from considering the environmental aspects of what we eat and how we live. They also travelled widely and encountered hunger at close quarters; the tension between seeing such poverty and believing in a generous God comes out clearly in A Place at the Table.

Bonnie Prince Charlie Walk: Longford to Lees and BONUS walk

The walk from Longford to Lees didn't include any churches. That was frankly not on. So I found an extra walk which included not one, not two, but three churches. Also it was shorter, because I didn't have time to fit in a longer walk that week. The next week I managed the churchless section of the Bonnie Prince Charlie Walk. It was a little more adventurous than I expected! Walk 1 (Three Churches) For this route I followed the directions given by Dave Welford on his very useful blog . As soon as I parked up by Sutton-on-the-Hill church, I heard the bleating of lambs. Spring must be coming. number 11 mum and baby   I crossed a field full of numbered lambs and ewes and came out in the middle of Sutton village. Turning left by the village preschool, I picked up another footpath to take me across the fields to Dalbury. A ruined cottage stood crumbling lonesomely - the Gamekeeper's Cottage, apparently.  I was amused by Dave Welford's comments about the miserable farmer who