From the 14-26 May we’re encouraging you to get active and explore some of the most beautiful countryside that Leicestershire has to offer.

Th National Forest is marking National Walking Month with its annual Walking Festival. This festival has long been held as one of the best of its kind, recently, The Guardian listed it in their best 10 Walking Festivals in the UK and they also featured a special article on it in 2017.

Strap on your boots and get walking

The National Forest Walking Festival is aimed at encouraging our visitors to get off the beaten track and explore the beautiful Leicestershire countryside. They have listed a range of fantastic walks on their website, from a 15 mile trek across the ‘peaks’ of the country parks right down to a more manageable five miles exploration of the industrial heritage of the region. Take a look at their website for more.

A perfect blend of ancient and modern

The National Forest is a mix of new and old woodland. At its heart is a landscape which reaches back 500 million years, but as much of the land was scarred by the industrial revolution, since 1990 more than 9 million trees have been planted to reconnect the ancient forests of Charnwood and Needwood.

Explore the ancient and mature Swithland Wood, a site of special scientific interest where a young David Attenborough fell in love with the natural world. If you’re lucky enough you might be able to see some of the fossils which inspired the young naturalist (you can check some out at the Bradgate Park Visitor Centre), and brand new areas like Sence Valley Country Park, which was created on a former colliery site near Ibstock.

Craggy peaks and wildlife

Bradgate Park and Beacon Hill are two of the most well known and iconic areas of the National Forest, with their instantly recognisable craggy volcanic rock formations and the picture-postcard Old John. They’re also the place to see a whole range of native wildlife. We all know about the herds of wild deer at Bradgate and Highland cows at Beacon Hill, but if you’re quiet and observant you might also spot snakes, buzzards, stoats and lizards.

Stepping through history

You can walk right through the history of the region at Ashby de la Zouch, whether it’s exploring the Castle which inspired Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe to simply wandering the streets of this beautiful town.

And nearby you can discover the industrial heritage of North West Leicestershire at Conkers outdoor adventure park, with miles of outdoor paths, a barefoot walk and climbing ropes. Then just a short wander down the canal-side you can find Moira Furnace, one of the best preserved examples of an industrial revolution blast furnace, with a museum and extensive country park.

Explore the Abbey

Just outside Coalville, you can explore the countryside and find a route between two religious landmarks. Visit the ruins of Grace Dieu priory, which was dissolved in the 1500s, and then plot a course through the nearby park towards Mount St Bernard Abbey. The Abbey is an active Monastic Community and is the only place in the UK which produces genuine Trappist Ale. By this time you’re bound to have a worked up a thirst, but don’t just glug down a bottle of Tynt Meadow, this 7.4% ale is made to be savoured, and you can buy your own to take home at the onsite shop.

Wander round the water

The Charnwood Forest has two beautiful reservoirs which offer fantastic walking routes. Start at Swithland Reservoir and watch the steam trains from the Great Central Railway pass across the bridge, and then wander through the woods and fields before finding yourself at Cropston reservoir, with beautiful views across to Bradgate Park. And if you can catch the sunset there… even better!

Loads more to explore

The National Forest has so much more to discover, whether it’s Martinshaw Wood, which straddles the M1, or the beautiful surroundings of Stoneywell, where you can explore the arts and craft-inspired cottage and then the stunning gardens. Or you can take a dip into the darker history of the region at the 1620s House near Coalville, and then explore Loughborough’s ancient Outwoods. There’s also a chance to get out and try out Geocaching, all you need is your smartphone and a sense of discovery. You can find tips on getting started here.

Once you’re all done and have walked your legs down to stumps, what better way to finish the day than by sitting back and enjoying a glass of Burleigh’s National Forest Gin, which features flavours inspired by the forest.




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