charnwood forest

The Charnwood Forest

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The Charnwood Forest

Step back in time as you explore the woods and forests of this ancient landscape. From wildflower meadows to rare birds and trout fishing, the beautiful Leicestershire countryside was also once home to some of the oldest life on earth.

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Key Information

Charnwood Forest, Leicestershire, LE12 8TA

Opening Times

Season (1 Jan 2021 - 31 Dec 2021)

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  • Uncover the story - The setting for David Attenborough’s childhood adventures, Charnwood Forest’s unique landscape has an astonishing story to tell – one that spans 580 million years. The jagged outcrops explored by the naturalist-in-the-making are among the oldest rocks in England, but it’s the fossils found here that make it so special. <hr> The rocks at Charnwood were thought to be too old to contain fossils but in 1957, a plant-like impression discovered embedded in stone here – named Charnia masoni – turned out to be the oldest fossilised evidence of our animal ancestors and changed our understanding of how complex life evolved on Earth. <hr> As you explore Charnwood Forest, you’re walking back through time, and sites including Beacon Hill, Bradgate Park and Swithland Wood offer an other-worldly perspective when viewed at sunrise or sunset. Wander off the beaten track and you’ll discover wildflower meadows and quarries of slate and granite, the materials that give the surrounding villages their distinctive character. <hr> Look out too for wildlife, with buzzards flying overhead, a bat population of regional importance and a canopy that’s home to many species of moths. The towering trees of Martinshaw Wood, between Ratby and Groby villages, offer a shaded pathway for walkers, and Groby Pool is home to one of Leicestershire’s few heronries.<hr> Charnwood’s reservoirs also attract waterbirds, so on a stroll around the 3.5-mile stretch at Cropston, look for tufted duck and great-crested grebe. As you explore Thornton’s paths, set alongside National Forest woodland, you could even spot osprey competing with anglers for catch of the day at its trout fishery, which is open for fishing with a permit. <hr> Hire a boat at Pillings Lock Marina on the Loughborough section of the Grand Union Canal, or head to Barrow-upon-Soar, where pedaloes and rowing boats at Barrow Boating offer an altogether different view of Charnwood. From here, a short journey to Leicester Museum and Art Gallery, where Charnia masoni is proudly displayed, will take you back nearly 600 million years.

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