This morning I could not get my backside out of bed for lover nor money, so todays walk was going to be a later than usual one. Once I had risen, got dressed and drunk a cup of coffee the time was around 10am, pretty late for me to be thinking off setting out for a wander as I much prefer leaving early and returning before the masses start to move about. In fact I was quite close to sacking of todays walk due to the time and the added fact that I really could not be bothered to drag my arse out of the house. But eventually I decided to force myself to leave the comfort of my chair and venture out into the freezing conditions outside.
Once I had defrosted the vans windows and got myself sorted I drove off my driveway trying to think of somewhere interesting to visit. I fancied a nice woodland walk but did not want a long drive so decided on visited a small woodland that I have previously had a little walk around but not explored properly. I 15 minutes I had parked the van near to the entrance of West Wood in Hadleigh and was setting about getting my rucksack sorted out for a little bimble around this pretty little woods. The temperature gauge in the van was reading -3 degrees so it was on with my snood, wool hat and big goose down jacket to keep the cold at bay.
West Wood spans roughly 80 acres and is an ancient semi natural woodland with paths and rides that wind their way through the woodlands with Sweet Chestnut and Birch growing on the higher ground with Oak, Poplar and Hornbeam growing more in the valley floor. I also found that there are quite a lot of mature Holly bushes, which at the time of writing, December, have a lovely flush of bright orange/red berries growing. Prittle Brook runs through the woodland and there are also a couple of small ponds to be found as well, which were frozen over on my visit. Coppicing is also practiced in part of the woodland. Castle Point Council run West Wood in partnership with the Castle Point Wildlife Group.
The ground was best part frozen as I wandered along the pathways that run through the woodland and my breath held in the freezing air as fog covered the tops of the taller trees. I could hear plenty of twitty birds in the bushes and trees nearby but only caught a glimpse of them every so often and never for long enough to be able to identify them. Maybe I should try and learn the differing songs made by our songbirds so that I can identify them without actually being able to spot them, that would be a pretty cool thing to do. I got close to a few Grey Squirrels along the way, literally 10 feet from them, and they would stop and pose nicely for me until I got my phone out to take their pictures at which point they would scurry around the opposite side of a tree and hide, I’m sure that I could hear them laughing at me whilst they did it…….
Prittle Brook runs through the woodland and there are a few bridges that span this narrow little ‘stream’ with a larger bridge, named Wombat Bridge, I would really like to know why this was named such as it is a bit of an odd name, crossing a slightly wider part. I am pretty sure there are no fish in the brook as it is barely 6″ deep but I did not walk its length so there might a deeper pool or two and I might be wrong. When I walked through this woodland during the summer I did see some ducks quite happily splashing around in its waters so thats a good thing.
In one corner of the woodlands, just off a tiny little pathway, there were a lot of scratchings in the soft leaf littered ground. Initially I thought they were probably where squirrels had been hiding there cache of nuts for the winter but on further inspection I am pretty sure that they were fresh Badger scratchings. Exploring around a bit I found lots more scratchings and also a large den, unfortunately it looked as though it had not been used for quite a while, obviously I did not go stomping through the den area as I did not want to disturb anything that might be, or might want to use this area. Some of the scratchings I found I am pretty sure were from Badgers digging for worms, but a couple were fairly deep and large so might of been the start of a new den.
The pathways varied from nice, narrow tracks running through thick covers of Holly bushes and other woodland shrubs to more open, wide rides which were the main routes for the few families and dog walkers that I passed on my ramble. As a little side note I passed a good few mountain bikers during my time there and all were very polite and conscious of the walkers also using the woodlands, so just bare that in mind if you walk there with your dog, or kids, of their leads. Personally I favoured the smaller, quieter tracks to follow as they feel a bit more intimate and closer to any wildlife that lives along their length.
In total I walked 2.3 miles through a beautiful frost covered woodland and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I would recommend visiting there to anyone who enjoys a ramble through some ancient woodlands, and the access there is pretty easy so there are no excuses.
I have recorded my time there in my account on the KOMOOT app so if you would like to see the exact route that I took then click the link HERE.