It is no secret that my favourite time of the year in the UK is Spring. Mainly because the forests turn dinosaur blue and the weather goes from -100 degrees to 5 degrees (which the humans feel is appropriate to sunbathe in). Recently I created my British Bucket List as I still don’t think it is the best idea to travel abroad. As soon as my photographer saw the list, we immediately planned out where we would go and when. We’ve decided to start by visiting the more local places and will assess the UK situation before heading any further afield.
I’ve been doing lots of research and one place kept appearing, Chopwell Woods. It is a rather large 360 hectare area of woodland in the vicinity of Gateshead and Beamish Museum (the far north of England). Wrinkly human told me this was once the site of a rather large coal mine and railway which supplied Derwenthaugh Cokeworks which has now all been reclaimed by nature.
Apparently, during this spring bluebells appear in Chopwell or so rumour would have it. So off I headed bright and early before the crowds of mountain bikers. I didn’t realise there would be so many different trails to follow. There are four main walking routes which vary in difficulty levels, running routes, mountain bike/ cycling paths and also a wellbeing trail. The shortest route is wheelchair accessible, a very unique find given anywhere north of Manchester is basically one huge hill.
I did two routes because as a dinosaur sadly I can’t read and also my photographer isn’t the best at following a map. To start with I left the car park and took a path to the right which took me past the remains of an old train. I had past three signs and seven runners before realising that I might have gone in the wrong direction.
The fresh smell of forest air made me realise there was no point in stressing about walking the 3km running trail. Though I was rather concerned that the majority of the trees were still bald. Spring was nowhere in sight so I chose to change paths and head towards the bigger trees.
Suddenly, my photographer had a camera all set up as we had found some spring flowers! Daffodils were still blooming nicely in Chopwell wood, though everywhere else seemed to have finished with daffodil flowers. They weren’t the bluebells I was searching for, but still beautiful nonetheless. There is even a stick tent for anyone feeling brave enough to camp out under the stars.
Please note: There are several memorials in the wood. Unfortunately the area with the daffodils is one (my photographer has removed it from the photo). Be respectful of the areas you photograph and visit. Also don’t pick (or eat) the flowers, it’s illegal.
Choosing to leave the daffodils to enjoy the sunshine, I headed down another path. This path, led me straight back to the car park. Looking at the map again, I chose to head in the opposite direction past some rather giant Christmas trees. This side of the wood was looking slightly more colourful. I managed to find some huge purple flowers but sadly the bluebells were nowhere to be found.
This side of the woodland was rather hilly in comparison to the other side. It was also really well signposted so I didn’t get lost (HOORAY!). I did find it quite tough walking up all of the hills. Luckily these guys were there to give me a helping hand.
Continuing along the north loop, I decided to be quiet in the hope of spotting some of the local wildlife. Though I had no luck. However, I did feel like I was being watched whilst enjoying the viewpoint.
Sadly, after this point I had to cut my walk short and do the dreaded sprint back to the car. In true English style the heavens opened. Listening to the sound of rain in a woodland is very calming, I like to listen to it on YouTube as background noise while I write blog posts. But, this was an April shower of epic proportions. Not only was the rain freezing, there was also a few giant hailstones thrown in for good measure. The one day I forgot to take my wellies …
I can’t wait to return in the autumn when the orange leaves appear. The wellbeing trail is something I’d love to try, my friends from Japan have told me how amazing forest bathing is, especially for reducing stress. Hopefully, next time I won’t get caught in one of the freezing April Showers.
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