Meadow Brown

To set out on the Heart of England Forest’s Dorsington Wood walk is to embark on a little voyage of discovery; a stroll offering the very best of the British countryside and packed with a host of surprises around almost every corner. Summer is when the wildlife comes out to play; the trees are in their pomp and, with a little luck, the weather is at its most accommodating.

For families with youngsters, the family trail comprises an abridged version of the walk – an easy, 1.5 mile stroll initially following the tracks of a longer way-marked route before veering off and taking in the latter stages of its ‘big brother’.

While both routes are circular, for the purposes of this article we’ll focus on the delights that await the slightly more adventurous walker. Those with a little more time to discover the wider range of woodland environments and wildlife to be found on the longer 3.5 mile Dorsington Wood walk won’t be disappointed!

A mix of old and new
Setting out from the Heart of England Forest car park near the village of Barton, the wanderer is immediately immersed in the young saplings of Dorothy’s Wood. Named after the Heart of England Forest founder’s mother, this broadleaf wood features 20 species of native trees including oak, ash, birch, field maple, small leaved lime and sweet chestnut. If there’s a rustle in the undergrowth, keep an eye out for startled muntjac skipping away at pace – they love to snuffle among the ground level shrubs seeking out their favourite woodland herbs or brambles.

Up a gentle incline is the tree dedication area, where Heart of England Forest supporters can tag a tree in memory of a loved one or to commemorate a special occasion. The open glades around this area are perfect for spotting painted lady, meadow brown or peacock butterflies.

Wandering on, the trail takes explorers into the mature woodland of Robert’s Wood. Following the brook, it’s worth keeping an eye out for the vivid blue flash of a kingfisher before you emerge into an open glade of newly planted woodland. Here the long grasses that grow among the trees offer nesting areas for skylarks and bramble feeding grounds for gatekeeper butterflies.

A waterside retreat
Soon, the walk leads to the solitude and tranquillity of Colletts Pond. It’s easy to lose oneself for half an hour or more on the bench conveniently located at this little oasis of calm, idly watching dragonflies and damselflies of all colours and sizes as they dart across the wildflowers – the banded demoiselle is particularly distinctive, with a dark band on its wing. On the water, moorhens and the occasional mallard scuttle to and fro, while a grey heron may pop in to scan the depths for some supper.
Following the path along a hedge teeming with bees, butterflies and a myriad of other insects, the trail opens out into another tract of newly planted woodland. Bearing left up a small incline brings the walker into Dorsington Wood. Here the founder’s memorial stands tall among the young trees of which Felix Dennis was so proud. Celebrating his life, a sarsen stone inscribed with a few lines of his inimitable poetry sits alongside a lifelike sculpture of the man himself, gazing paternally across his growing Forest.

The home straight
Following the course of the brook brings the walker past the Arboretum, housing a vast collection of tree species from around the world. The trail then returns towards the car park via Robert’s Wood and into the 16 year old Roman Field Wood. This beech wood has been planted with larch and pine to act as a nurse crop to protect the slow growing trees for the first 20-30 years.

The final stretch of the walk is a riverside stroll alongside the celebrated River Avon and back to the car park. Here the water is so clear that it’s almost too easy to tarry awhile in the shade of the crack willow and become mesmerised by the scores of fish gliding past. The marine life seems blissfully unaware of the occasional narrow boat that chugs past before negotiating Pilgrim’s Lock!

Details of all our way-marked trails can be found here.