RICHARD WILLIAMSON Country Walk...Forestside

Another lovely woodland walk with old trees, flowers and birds in spring.

Distance 5kms (three miles). Park roadside car park opposite Christchurch. The church has knapped flint walls, belfry, a snug interior with panelled roof and a glittering east window with prophets and kings of Israel all enclosed in Yggdrasil tree-of-life pattern. Note Queen Victoria on left chancel arch. Also three Irish yews outside.

Now east along edge of Stansted Forest with its Japanese larches. Small flocks of blue tits here on my visit last week.

After 500m right on yellow arrow and then ahead on yellow keeping a multi-stemmed field maple on your left.

You now enter Batty’s Park woods which are largely unmanaged coppice with standards: hazel and oak.

There is a recent, poignant little memorial to a father all pinned to a dead birch tree to right.

Then see if you can find the enormous growth on the base of a small birch to the left (see photo in Nature Watch below).

Our path was once stone-metalled for carriage drives.

At crossways right on blue arrow along edge of meadows.

Note unusual ivy growth covering a larch tree to right, and squirrel damage to a field maple.

Turn right on yellow arrow to cross Hare Warren.

Large old oaks, beeches, chestnuts and ashes.

Past stile and climbing out of little valley note a beech on left with bad wind-ring caused by wind trying to twist the trunk causing spiral crack up the trunk.

Turn right along road for 500m then left on yellow into Stanstead Forest.

Splendid specimen Douglas firs to right. Their long cones have triple bracts which identify the species.

On your left a female yew behind group of four Norway spruce.

Then half right on yellow arrow, north-west, with chestnut coppice to the left. Then another female yew layering her branches is possibly 400 years of age.

At crossways take the third left turn on yellow arrow passing another male tree growing on the spoil from unidentified ancient pitheap.

Downhill to a stile leading into Warren Bottom, a few chalk plants such as sheeps’ fescue grass growing around its edges.

Note the thin fine leaves. Over stile, and turn right on yellow noting old showman’s caravan in garden.

You now pass an old chalk quarry and a clitter of pheasant rearing pens, shelters and troughs under the Norway spruce trees on right.

I counted 18 horses in the paddocks either side on way back to woody Alvis which has 14 horses under bonnet.