Skip to main content

National Forest Way: Ratby and Martinshaw Wood

This was a walk of quiet woods and a busy motorway. The sky was gray and it felt as if the natural world had packed up and settled down for the winter.

I parked at the small Martinshaw Woods car park, on the outskirts of Ratby. Crossing the road to a housing estate, the first thing I saw was an old hearse, decorated with skull bunting and a black cat! "My sense of humour might hurt your feelings," said the sign.

The footpath I was heading for had a nice sign saying The Stattie. It took me between a pub and a playing field. Then I crossed a lane and went past some young cows in a field, and into a small wood.

On the other side was a track that led to Holy Well Farm. The holy well is now a pond; apparently the water was good for the treatment of scorbutic diseases. Yes, I did have to Google that! Scorbutic means related to scurvy. Now you know.

Holy Well farm and pond

After the farm, the bridleway continued through woodland for quite some time. I stopped to listen. A bird sang, briefly. The only other noise was the steady drip of water from the trees.

Finally I reached some tarmac - a cycle route. I crossed a golf course and eventually reached the point where I'd finished the NFW last time.

golf course with bulrushes

I'd rashly worn walking boots instead of wellies for this walk. Up until now it had been fine - some mud, but easy to skirt around. Now my troubles really started. The path was narrow, with thick mud across it and prickly bushes lining each edge. I developed my acrobatic skills as I hopped from side to side, trying to avoid the worst mud without getting impaled on thorns. Gradually the path turned into a stream, which met another stream. This feature was presumably meant to be a footbridge, but was more like a weir.



The farmhouse of Old Hayes provided me with an information board and a welcome bench for lunch. The path continued through Burroughs Wood, which contained a holy (holey) tree and a kind of small shrine. 

I was sure the instructions for this section of walk had mentioned surfaced paths. But there hadn't been much sign of them so far! Fortunately that was about to change. Once I reached the Burroughs Wood car park, I was back on the cycle path again, and the going was much easier. The gravel track led me all the way back to Martinshaw Wood. 

The steady swish of the motorway got louder and louder as I passed my car again, and crossed the bridge over the M1. Martinshaw Wood dates back to at least the 13th century, but got cut in half by the M1 in the 20th century. I certainly hope someone kicked up a fuss about that; but I guess it didn't make much difference.

Over in the other half of Martinshaw Wood, the path I should have taken was flooded, but there was an easy and obvious detour. I followed a long straight track - Porter's Ride, I discovered at the end - to the far edge of the wood.


A bench with a plaque on it caught my eye. I moved over to read it, expecting it to be the usual memorial to a loved one. Instead, it had been sponsored by Pets at Home, "to celebrate the joy pets bring."

The kissing gate into the housing estate was my finishing point for the day. A public footpath took me on a loop past a school and back to the bridge over the motorway. From there it was a short hop to the car park.


Popular posts from this blog

Hell is still hot?

  Sometimes it's good when people say things we disagree with. Not always; it can be irritating, frustrating, or wounding. But sometimes it arouses our curiosity, causes us to examine our assumptions, and sets us off on a trail of new discoveries. So it was when somebody posted this image on Facebook.   It says, in emphatic block capitals: We need preachers who preach that hell is still hot, that heaven is still real, that sin is still wrong, that the Bible is God's word, and that Jesus is the only way of salvation. After my initial reaction of, "We certainly do not! " the curiosity kicked in. What was it about this particular formulation of the Christian faith that I didn't like? If I wouldn't preach that, what would I preach? Given that hell is not a major topic of the Bible, how on earth did we get Christians who think it merits headline billing in the gospel? What's wrong with it? Picking something apart is always the easy bit. I partly object to what

National Forest Way: Final Thoughts

As you may have gathered from my blog posts, I've really enjoyed walking the National Forest Way. I found myself eagerly anticipating each walk, and happily inking the route on the map when I'd done it. The National Forest Way is an ideal starter long-distance walk. There are no enormous mountains or exposed cliff edges. The route is never too far from a village, a car park, or a cafe. But there are some lovely views over sunny fields, some beautiful patches of woodland, and some industrial history along the way. I very rarely found it boring.   An advantage that I didn't appreciate when I started is that the Way forms a giant zigzag. This means it fits 75 miles of path into a relatively compact space, making it easy to reach all of it. From my home in south Derbyshire, every section was within a 40 minute drive. The distance between Beacon Hill and the National Memorial Arboretum is only about 25 miles. The countryside is lovely, and generally overlooked in favour of the P

Interior Castle: Spiritual Formation Book 11

"We cannot enter by any efforts of our own; His Majesty must put us right into the centre of our soul, and must enter there Himself."   St Teresa of Avila reluctantly began to write Interior Castle (or The Mansions ) in 1577, complaining that "this writing under obedience tires me and makes my head worse". She set herself to the task of explaining her vision of the soul being like "a castle made of a single diamond... in which there are many rooms, just as in Heaven there are many mansions".  Her writing is engaging but dense; I found it difficult to read more than about ten pages at a time. She also has a habit of introducing terms like favours or intellectual visions and talking about them for a while, before finally defining what they mean several chapters later. This gets confusing. On the other hand, St Teresa is good at thinking of illustrations to explain what she means. She frequently exclaims that these visions are impossible to describe to any