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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.


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