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GRAFTON Wood is the largest surviving remnant of Feckenham Forest and was jointly acquired by Worcestershire Wildlife Trust and Butterfly Conservation in 1997.
It consists mainly of hazel and ash coppice, with oak standards.
The previous owner had more or less abandoned coppicing, so that the wood had become dark and gloomy, shading out wild flowers and the creatures that depend on them.
The two conservation organisations have restored rotational coppicing and have widened some paths and rides.
Much of this work has been done by volunteers and the result of their labours is a light-dappled wood with spectacular displays of wild flowers.
The bluebells are magnificent, but there are masses of primroses too, along with some rarer species, such as bird’s-nest orchid and early purple orchid.
The coppiced timber is used for various purposes, such as the beautifully crafted hazel fencing hurdles which you’ll see at a few points by the woodland edge.
Grafton Wood is nationally important for supporting a colony of the endangered brown hairstreak butterfly, which flies in August and September.
The butterfly depends on blackthorn and as you walk round the wood you’ll see plenty of this, with some of the bushes still in flower.
The densest concentration is just outside the southern edge of the wood, where blackthorn occurs in dense thickets.
Though many of Grafton Wood’s oak trees are not much over 100 years old, there are about 40 ancient pollarded trees around the perimeter, where ancient boundary banks are also visible in places.
Most of the veteran trees are oak, interspersed with ash and field maple. More ancient oaks survive in the surrounding fields and hedgerows and you’ll see several on this walk. You’ll also pass a lovely pear orchard which contains a traditional-style shepherd’s hut, with wheels and chimney.
Look out for roe deer in the woods and fields. There are also dozens of donkeys and miniature ponies in the fields between Upper Kite’s Wood and Grafton Wood. Dogs must be on leads in these fields.
Start: Grafton Flyford, north of A422 east of Worcester, grid ref SO961556.
Length: 4½ miles/7km.
Maps: OS Explorer 204, OS Landranger 150.
Terrain: Woodland and pasture, no hills.
Footpaths: Mostly excellent, apart from a few gaps in waymarking and some slightly obstructive fencing.
Parking: Three Parishes Hall at Grafton Flyford. Please put a donation in the box and observe any restrictions which may apply on Sundays or on the occasion of church or parish functions.
Alternatively, park by the Grafton Flyford turn, by A422.
Buses: WCC 350 Worcester- Redditch, Mon-Sat only, to the Grafton Flyford turn or the Red Hart at Dormston; worcestershire.gov.uk/ bustimetables or 01905 765765.
Refreshments: Red Hart, Dormston.
1 Walk past the church and turn right to pass through the yard at Church Farm. Head along a wellused track towards Grafton Wood, ignoring all branching footpaths.
When the track changes to the other side of the hedge the public footpath is supposed to go straight on, though a lack of waymarking and a fence across the path mean that many walkers tend to stay on the track. In any case, the path rejoins the track at the next gate, where waymarking resumes, and the route is clear again, going obliquely across a field to the main entrance to Grafton Wood.
2 Begin by following a nature trail, though only for a short distance.
Turn right on entering the wood, then right again after a few paces.
Turn right at the next junction. The path soon swings left, close to the woodland edge, and you then go straight on at a cross-path near a gate. Go to the left at the next junction, ignoring a path branching right towards hazel hurdles. Go straight on at the next junction, rejoining the nature trail. Stay within the wood at all junctions, joining a bridleway after passing an orchard.
3 Arriving at a junction marked by a redundant stile on the left, and a metal kissing gate on the right, leave Grafton Wood at the gate. Go diagonally left across a field to a small farm building then follow the field edge. Ignore all branching paths, going straight on through fields to Dormston. Turn left past the Red Hart, on Cockshute Lane.
4 Take the second path on the left, at Tanglewood. It soon bends right to run along the outer edge of Lower Kite’s Wood. After passing the end of the wood ignore a ladder stile on the left and continue forward to a waymarked gate. Cross a bridleway, go through a gate opposite and cross two fields. Go to the far left corner of a third field, pass through a gate into the adjacent field and turn left. Go through three fields then pass through a deer gate. Go through another gate a few paces further on, entering a large pasture with a scattering of old trees.
5 Turn right past a pond then past a line of four old trees, another pond (dried up) and some hawthorns, to a corner of Grafton Wood. Go straight on, joining the Wychavon Way. After crossing a stile, leave the Wychavon Way and re-enter Grafton Wood. Follow the path to a junction then turn right. Keep right at the next junction, so that you’re fairly close to the woodland edge. When the path becomes very narrow and slightly overgrown turn left along a wide track which leads to a clearing full of primroses. Turn right, then very soon right again, passing between two hazel hurdles.
6 Turn left along a field edge, with Grafton Wood on your left. Keep straight on for a while after passing the end of the wood then turn left over a footbridge and right along another field edge. Turn left in the corner, to the left of a fence and a brook. Shortly go through a gate so you’re then walking to the right of the brook. Proceed to Church Farm, pass to the left of the barns to rejoin your outward route and turn right to the church and parish hall.