The National Forest is changing the South Derbyshire landscape rapidly. Even so some people say “What forest?” “Where are the trees?” or “It’ll never come about”.
To convince you that it is happening this circular walk begins in the village of Overseal, the central village of England (from a population point of view) according to the 1996 census.
Fifteen new woods are visited and many references are made to the culture and heritage of South Derbyshire. To the east of the village lies the old South Derbyshire coalfield and to the west the rolling landscape of the Mease lowlands.
The walk begins at the village church (SK295154) and the National Forest 1:25000 OS map (Explorer 245) is essential. Admire the village map that was produced by residents as a tribute to the millennium.
Use the Pelican crossing and leave the village by Lullington Road to the south of the Robin Hood pub. Take the jitty (South Derbyshire for alley) on your left between numbers 17 and 19. Turn right through the new estate (Bramble Walk) to a village lane, turn left and cross to a field gate at 294152 on the right. Cross the field by walking parallel to the hedge on the right to a stile in the uncut hedge. Cross the track. Continue ahead keeping another hedge on your right to meet a narrow path with the sewage works’ fence on the left. This area is a haven for small birds. Look out for long-tailed tits and listen for the drumming of a woodpecker. The path continues to cross arable land. Cross the plank bridge and turn right to follow the woodland fence now on your left. Turn left before the gate onto the road. Follow the hedge for 200 metres, go through the access point in the hedge, cross the road and take the route towards Lullington at the junction, Grange WoodAfter half a mile, a footpath goes off to the right (north) initially following the drive of Woodside Cottage. This path keeps Grange Wood on the left, the largest ancient wood of South Derbyshire. The edge of the wood has a good mix of trees – oak, beech, silver birch and an under storey of hawthorn, hazel and elder. During the spring, bluebells carpet the floor and woodlarks can sometimes be heard singing on summer evenings. However, its heart has not recovered from felling during the 1st and 2nd World Wars. Rhododendrons have taken over and little light penetrates. Poor quality silver birch dominates the centre.
As the higher ground is reached a broad view opens out northwards across the Trent Valley and to the south-east, Bardon Hill can be seen on the edge of Charnwood Forest. Cross the stile at 273153 to enter new planting by the Woodland Trust. Turn right following the grass ride and aim for the gate to the right of the telephone mast. The trig point (126 metres) is close to the mast but not easily seen.
A shorter route can be taken from here by following the tarmac track towards Botany Bay. If taking the shorter route read from A in the text (Botany Bay to Linton).
The longer walk continues by crossing the stile and keeping the fence on your left, ignore the tarmac track and enter Toptree Wood at 267152. Follow the hedgerow to the junction of paths at 265148. Take the path to the southwest (half right) along a ride, then through recent planting to aim for a finger post by a gate on to Coton Road. Stay on the woodland side of the hedge, turn right and leave the woodland at the next corner by the cross roads. Take the road towards Coton-in-the Elms to a sharp right-hand bend. Use the footpath straight ahead passing Church Flatts Farm on your left (The most central farm in England). Cross farm lane and a field. Enter Coton Wood (the first to be planted by the Woodland Trust in the area) by crossing a footbridge but keep the old hedgerow on your left and follow it until a wide gap is reached. Pass through the opening and aim for a track turning right, take the left fork. (The path you have recently joined was the corpse road between Coton-in-the-Elms and the church in Lullington.
Aim for the car park for Coton Wood, (an alternative starting point). Turn right into the village.
Coton boasts three pubs, two of which serve food. Admire the village green, to your right, with its stream and a variety of domestic ducks. Continue straight ahead walking gently uphill past the church to the footpath junction at 241155, 100 metres after the village sign. Follow this route. The old hedge on the left is a picture in early spring when it is festooned with blackthorn blossom. The path is walked regularly. After more recent tree planting the village of Rosliston is reached at 243166. Turn right and follow the lane to the junction near the school. Cross the road and take the path from 244167 into Rosliston Forestry Woodlands.
Rosliston Forestry Woodlands
Walk through the Memorial wood and follow the signs left and right to the forestry centre – a visitor centre, café, craft units, birds of prey and interesting climbing frames are there for your enjoyment. This is another possible starting point for the walk.
At the wooden bird sculpture take the gravel path to the left (north-east) and walk along the all abilities trail past the Flight Pond then eventually keeping the boundary hedge on your left Greenheart Lake is on the right. Note the different periods of tree planting. This area was bought from a local farmer by South Derbyshire District Council and is their contribution to the National Forest. The site is also a partnership between the Forestry Commission and Rolls Royce. Kate Allies has established a variety of excellent environmental education sessions for schools’ use. Continue with the hedge on the left to 252171. A short detour from here leads to the village of Caldwell. The Royal Oak pub may be open and the village church is worth looking at. Retrace your steps to the last grid reference and follow the hedge on the left to a steel barrier and follow the track into Rosliston village.
Beehive Farm, Rosliston
Turn left along Main Street; pass the mini roundabout on Linton Road to the sharp bend. Continue straight on to Beehive Farm. This was the first successful Tender Scheme in 1996 when Alistair Chapman saw the potential that tourism and leisure would bring as the forest develops. Make use of the information boards and the loos. Sue Chapman has an excellent teashop with ample homemade cakes to choose from. (Closed 0n Mondays & Tuesdays, winter closing 2-30 pm; summer closing 4-00pm).
Walk through the car park keeping the caravan site on the right. Bear right and Horseshoe Lake is reached. Keep the water on your left by walking along the lower path until you see an opening in the hedge. Go through the opening along a grass track to another car park. The bio-diversity of Beehive Farm has increased as a result of the habitats that have been developed. I’ve watched Arctic terns diving for small fish on Botany Bay Lake and other interesting water birds are resident. There are a variety trees - oak, ash, wild cherry and crab apple are some of the trees you walk through. The headlands are a haven for insects especially butterflies. Dragonflies breed in the wetland areas. Turn left to reach the lane. Turn right and after 100 metres cross the lane to enter Penguin Wood (another recent planting) through a small gate. Keep the hedgerow on the right and follow it round. A gap through the hedge will be reached on joining the right of way at 259156. Take an ESE route to reach the road close to Botany Bay Farm.
Botany Bay to Linton
Turn left (only metres) to the track that leads to Park Farm. Turn right onto this and immediately cross the stile into Top Wood on your left(A). Keep the hedgerow on your left and follow the ride in a general easterly direction to reach the ROW at 272158. Turn left. The disused railway that served Netherseal Colliery is in front of you. Pass through the cutting where the old bridge used to stand. Turn and follow the old pipe to the right. Continue straight ahead along the grassy ride, cross the stiles and you are soon on to a track. The colliery workings were on the right towards Grange Wood. Join Colliery Lane and follow it ENE to its junction with Main Street, Linton. Look out for the community orchard on the right. Turn left towards the village school and take the footpath into Foxley Wood at 277166.
Keep the hedgerow on the left and continue straight ahead. Cross the bridle path by Waterfallows Farm; Cross the hollow and eventually views across the Trent Valley open up to the left. On clear days the Weaver Hills, Minninglow and Crich Stand can be seen in the Peak District. The large detached houses on the right were ex-colliery managers’ homes. Keep the hedgerow on your right and join Field Lane and cross Mountpleasant Road. Take the path to the left of the Mountpleasant pub. Cross the A444 (60 mph speed limit here. Take Care!). Enter Tunnel Woods. Follow Pit Lane in a north easterly direction to 291174. Turn right. You are following the route of Gresley Tunnel on your left. Maintain this south westerly direction and then follow the railway line. Take the footpath to the right of the tarmac multi-user path. Follow it to enter the ‘Towpath site’ via a plank bridge and metal gate. Take the gravel track ahead until it veers to the left. Go through the gap in the fence to maintain the same line at the foot of Wadlands Wood.
The contrasting landscape to the left is the result of the reclamation of old clay pits and open cast coal mining. A muddy route follows the trees. Turn right at the southern end of the wood. Once at the south western corner of the wood go through the gap into the field and follow the ROW to meet Edward Street. Walk south; ignore Coronation Street (It is possible!) and Woodlands Crescent. Turn right at Moira Road back to the church.
Start/finish: Overseal (SK 295154); Linton (SK 278164);
Rosliston Forestry Centre(SK 244175);
Beehive Farm, Rosliston (SK 250161);
Coton Wood (SK 245147).
Distance: 13 miles (20 km)
Terrain: a mixture of field paths, bridleways, country lanes and permissive paths and rides in new woodland. Paths are usually obvious
Map: Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer sheet 245 (The National Forest). It is essential to use a recent edition as the woodland areas are changing rapidly.