"And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul." - John Muir
I’ve always been part of an outdoors loving family. As a child most of my time was spent running around in the garden, gathering up leaves for 'wild' painting, splashing about in a paddling pool and exploring the countryside that I was (and still am) so lucky to live alongside of.
So, that meant that a lot of my childhood was also spent exploring and walking through Salcey Forest. I used to spend hours hiding my footprints from the Bigfoot that my uncle assured me was lurking just around the corner, riding my bike along the cycle trails and clambering along the treetop walk to gawk at the incredible view at the top - all while playing whatever imaginary game had taken my fancy that day.
And yet, despite the fact that I still live just as close to it as I’ve always done and despite the fact that I now have my own car to make getting there easier, Salcey Forest had kind of slipped from my mind. Until last weekend, anyway, when I finally revisited one of my favourite childhood spots.
Located just 11 miles from Milton Keynes and a measly 7 miles from Northampton, Salcey Forest is situated in Northamptonshire on the outskirts of a couple of rather well-established towns. It has been heralded as an “oasis of nature and history” by the Foresty Commision and I wholeheartedly second that opinion.
VISITING SALCEY FOREST:
GETTING THERE =
For satnav purposes the postcode is NN7 2HX
£1.50 for an hour or £4 for the day (all cars and minibuses)
£10 for all coaches
(Payable by cash, card or phone)
OPENING HOURS =
Nov - Mar: 8am - 5pm
Apr - Oct: 8am - 7pm
A Haven For Dog Walkers
There is a charm that comes from stepping inside of a forest. The trees stretch up towards the sky, calling out for you to climb them. The paths weave deeper and deeper into the woodland, making you feel as though you've left behind all forms of civilisation. And for a few hours at least, you can walk along without a worry in your mind while you simply take the time to admire the world around you. So I really don't know why it has taken me so long to head back to Salcey Forest, but I'm definitely glad that I finally made the trip.
And the added beauty of Salcey Forest is that it is there for humans and dogs to enjoy side-by-side. Which seems to be quite a rarity, even in the countryside, these days. So, as one of the few woodland areas that still welcomes dog walkers with open arms, it's not uncommon to find it teaming with dogs of all shapes and sizes. Which, if you ask me, simply adds to its charm.
And with three different trails to follow, the Forest is quite simply a haven for dog owners who are looking to head out on a dog walk that is slightly different to the norm without having to spend hours in the car.
Which is exactly what I did last weekend. With a dog walking kit slung across Emma's arm (containing a fold up water bowl and poo bags a plenty), we hijacked the yard dog for the morning and took Marley, the Yappy Ever After rescue lab, for a wonderful stroll through the forest.
Visiting The Salcey Forest Cafe
And, after cutting down what was meant to be an hour long walk to about 40 minutes due to our fast pace (and Marley's inability to take his time while doing anything), we completed our trip with a stop off at the dog-friendly café for lunch. While neither of us were brave enough to actually take the over-excited puppy indoors, we did both enjoy a delightfully homemade sandwich outside. And Marley happily showed his approval by scoffing down the crusts when we were finished.
But it’s safe to say that while the trails themselves are wonderful, while the café offers a range of truly delicious hot and cold meals, and while the forest also plays host to a horse bridleway and a cycle path, it is the Tree Top Way that is the highlight of Salcey Forest. The wooden bridge rises 15 metres above the floor and is accessible to those in wheelchairs too. Upon reaching the top of the sloped bridge, you’ll then find yourself in a position to climb a final 5 metres via the steps to a crow’s nest platform. And it is safe to say that reaching the very top is an absolute must if you’re able to do so because the views of Salcey Forest and beyond are simply breath-taking - even in winter.
The Magic That Comes With A Woodland Walk
As I child I was drawn to the forest, to its trees that were ten times as big as I was, to its shadows that held stories of Bigfoot, to its animals that made me feel like I was a real life Snow White as I sauntered along the tracks. And while the forest may now invoke rather different thoughts in my mind and while I no longer look over my shoulder every few seconds for Bigfoot, I did find that as I was walking along, I still felt the very same level of awe that I did as a child.
And it isn’t just me who thinks that Salcey Forest has an air of magic about it either. The Forestry Commision describes it as being a “magnificent ancient woodland” and as Salcey Forest is the remains of a medieval royal hunting forest, there is definitely a rather interesting history to it. So, while Bigfoot might not actually call the woodland his home, there is plenty more to discover hidden in the depths of the trees. With ancient wood bands, building remains and veteran trees, Salcey is home to rare wildlife habitats and to Oak trees that are over 600 years old. All of which will give you plenty to look at and plenty for your dog to turn his nose to as you stroll along the woodland paths.
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