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THERE are few better places to enjoy an autumn stroll than Wyre Forest in north Worcestershire.
Although much of the first part of this lovely walk is outside the forest there is an abundance of trees all the way, reflecting the fact that hamlets such as Cross Bank, Gorst Hill and Pound Bank started life as clearings within the forest. Even today that heritage is still just about evident in the wellwooded landscape.
Once the walk enters Wyre Forest itself the route searches out some of the less frequented paths, particularly those that pass through areas dominated by beech and oak, which look magnificent in autumn.
The forest covers about 6,500 acres and is one of the largest areas of semi-natural woodland in Britain. It is home to many species of wildlife including one of the few English populations of the moth oecophora bractella.
Start: Wyre Forest Visitor Centre, Callow Hill, on the A456 west of Bewdley; grid ref SO750740.
Length: Seven miles/11.5km.
Maps: OS Explorer 218, OS Landranger 138.
Terrain: Mostly woodland, with some pasture. There are several slopes but nothing very steep.
Footpaths: Excellent, apart from occasional gaps in waymarking.
Parking: Wyre Forest Visitor Centre. Alternatively, there may be some space available at the top of Lye Head Road.
Public transport: Bus (First 294/295/303) or train to Kidderminster then R&B 291 Tenbury service or First 292 Ludlow service to the visitor centre (most 303 journeys now run straight through to Ludlow – the service number changes at Kidderminster but in most cases you won’t need to change buses); note that Sunday services on this route ceased operation in September due to county council spending cuts; worcestershire.gov.uk/ bustimetables or 01905 765765.
Refreshments: Café at visitor centre, pub and shop at Far Forest.
1 Walk down Lye Head Road (if you come by bus you’ll get off here, but if you come by car and park at the visitor centre you can reach Lye Head Road on a woodland-edge path parallel with the main
road). Turn right on another road after 350m then take a path on the left after 200m. This is easily followed until you come to a point where there’s a line of oak trees on the left and a hedge on
the right – follow the line of oaks, keeping to the right of them, to meet Bine Lane. Turn right, then go left at a T-junction and straight on at a crossroad, along Dark Lane.
2 Take a bridleway on the right.
Follow it to a lane, turn right and then take the first footpath on the left. Follow it to a junction and turn left. Turn right at the next junction, in a corner of Woodward’s Coppice. Walk to
another junction and turn right, leaving the wood to meet the A456 at Pound Bank. Cross over, turn left and then take Buckeridge Lane. Keep straight on at a crossroad. Take a path on the right just
before Alton Lodge Farm. The path is easily followed until you come to some picnic tables and fishing pools – turn right here and then look for a waymark directing you left across the field to a
stile at the far side. Walk to the A4117, cross over and turn right.
3 Take Plough Lane then fork left just after Cleestones. Walk through fields to another lane and turn right. When you reach Lodge Coppice take a path on the right.
Cross two fields and then go straight on into Brandlodge Coppice. Fork left when you reach a house called Brantwood. Keep straight on at an unmarked junction, go left at the next unmarked junction and straight on at an unmarked crosspath.
Waymarking resumes at the next junction, where you go straight on.
Swing left as you approach the edge of the wood then turn right along a track. Ignore a path branching left and keep to the track.
4 Crossing a plank footbridge, you enter Forestry Commission land and from now on you can take any path you wish, so the route described here is just one of many possibilities. Climb up a bank to meet a path and turn left. Ignore branching paths and keep climbing through woods of oak and beech.
Turn left when you meet a bridleway/cycleway then take the second path on the right, marked by a sign prohibiting cycles. Turn left when you come to a T-junction.
A little further on the path is starting to become overgrown by brambles but just find the best way through while maintaining roughly the same direction.
Meeting a cycleway, turn left to a junction marked by a giant fingerpost.
5 Turn right, then shortly fork left on another footpath through beech and oak woods.
Turn right at two junctions and then left at another, descending all the while. Rejoin the cycleway and turn left to find another giant fingerpost. Turn right towards Bewdley, along the former railway embankment. After 500m, having crossed a steep valley, take a narrow path climbing uphill. Turn right at a T-junction, joining a wider path. When this path swings right take another narrow path climbing left through beechwoods.
When the path levels out you'll come to another junction – turn right here. Keep straight on when you meet a public footpath, waymarked with yellow arrows, and keep to this footpath at the next few
junctions. It coincides with Forest Enterprise’s Buzzard Trail, waymarked in red.
6 When the path branches leave the Buzzard Trail and fork right on the public footpath. It isn’t waymarked at this junction but the yellow arrows soon resume, confirming that you’re going the right way. When you reach a memorial bench dedicated to Margaret Teasdale leave the public footpath, forking left on another path bordered by a line of beech trees. Go straight on by another memorial bench, joining Forest Enterprise’s Woodpecker Trail, waymarked in green. Follow this trail back to the visitor centre.
Worcester News recommends the use of OS Explorer Maps, your ideal passport to navigating the countryside. This walk is based on OS Explorer 218.