15th November 2013Whinlatter Forest: Trails, tracks and treetops

With so many wonderful wide open spaces in the Western Lake District, I have to admit that I have sometimes doubted whether there is much point going for a walk in the woods. In an area that has fine coastal and mountain views in spades, I have been reluctant to enter the forest in case my vista is reduced to ranks of tree trunks.

However, after a recent trip to Whinlatter Forest Park I am glad to say I have been converted. It was on an autumnal afternoon last week that I took the road that winds up the hillside above Bassenthwaite into the conifers that make up the forest. Whinlatter is billed as England's only mountain forest and the road ascends gradually into its wooded fells, with occasional glimpses of the view across the treetops to Skiddaw.

Whinlatter Forest, the Western Lake District

The hub of all the activities that Whinlatter has to offer is its visitor centre, where the walking trails and mountain bike tracks have their beginnings and ends. At this point I have to make another admission, namely that I am a coward when it comes to mountain bikes. Perhaps it is the memory of too many scraped knees as a child, but the fact is that I just don't trust my cycling skills enough to set off hurtling down forest tracks on two wheels. However, there were plenty of braver people than I heading out onto Whinlatter's mountain bike tracks or returning clarted in mud from head to foot. The Altura and Quercus trails both start from the visitor centre, where you can also hire bikes from the Cyclewise shop.

I took the more sedate option of setting off on the Seat How Summit trail track - one of the seven walking tracks that weave their way around the forest. As the name suggests, the circuit takes in some the highest points in the forest. I was pleasantly surprised to find there were enough breaks in the canopy for me to be rewarded with regular views across to the nearby fells. I was also lucky enough to spot both a Red Squirrel and a Roe Deer along with regular glimpses of courageous mountain bikers tearing down the forest tracks. On the tops the trees gave way to heather moorland and a revealed a panorama of Bassenthwaite, Derwentwater, Helvellyn and Skiddaw.

Bassenthwaite Lake from Whinlatter

Primed by a good walk I returned to the visitor centre to enjoy a warming bowl of soup in Siskins Café and watch the acrobatic Bullfinches on the birdfeeders outside.

Siskins Café, Whinlatter Forest, the Western Lake District

Bullfinches, Whinlatter Forest, the Western Lake District

Perhaps I will pluck up the courage to hire a mountain bike next time.

Find out more…

Whinlatter Forest: www.visitlakelandforests.co.uk and www.forestry.gov.uk/whinlatter

Cyclewise: www.cyclewise.co.uk

Stick Man Adventures at Whinlatter Forest – free family activities throughout December and January:  

http://www.forestry.gov.uk/stickman

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Brian Sherwen Photography

Many images on this website have been supplied to us by Brian Sherwen.