From a luxurious cabin retreat in the New Forest to a camp in a Cambodian jungle, Chris Carter picks four of the best holidays in the woods.
“The woods… are places of endless fascination,” says Jenny Walters in Country Walking magazine. “The steamy green fug of July becomes a colourful crackle at this time of year, when the trees are arguably at their most beautiful.”
The New Forest, in Hampshire, is the perfect place for a stroll among the trees. Of course, the New Forest isn’t really “new”. It’s almost 1,000 years old. It makes an appearance in the Domesday Book of 1086 as the Nova Foresta, when William the Conqueror ordained it as the first Royal Forest in England. It “rustles with diverse wildlife from snakes to nightjars to its famous ponies” and it has one of the highest concentrations of old trees in western Europe. Some of them are older than the Royal Forest itself.
And like all woodland, the New Forest has its stories. King William lost two sons and a grandson in the woods through bizarre accidents; the Royal Navy felled the trees here to build its mighty ships in the 18th century.
In the middle of it all is Lyndhurst, a town that looks like one from “a children’s picture book”, says Anna Conrad for GQ magazine. It is also home to Lime Wood (above). This “five-star hotel is a country manor type, like a Tuscan retreat in the UK, with an outside terrace, cooking classes, manicured sprawling lawns and calming herbs at every corner, just in case the walk to the main entrance is too stressful”. Opt for a forest suite. These “homely” luxurious cabins come with “plush” bedding and “the biggest bathrooms you’ll ever witness”.
Romping through the leaves
With the leaves turning shades of red and gold, the woods form a stunning backdrop for a host of activities held in the autumn months, says Rachel Dixon in The Guardian. This year, Forestry England is holding a series of ten-kilometre runs in Thetford Forest, Suffolk; Salcey Forest, Northamptonshire; and Sherwood Pines, Nottinghamshire, among others (£20, forestryengland.uk/run100). Meanwhile, the annual Tweed Valley forest festival (forest-festival.com) takes place on 19 and 20 October, celebrating “the woodland culture of the Scottish Borders”. And in Northumberland, on Saturday 5 October, Northern Wilds leads a “safe and sustainable” foraging expedition in Kielder Forest (pictured above, £65 for adults, northernwilds.co.uk).
Forest of Dean
Sandwiched between the rivers Severn and Wye, the “Foresters” living in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire have historically been “an isolated and closed community”, says Kate Edgley in The Observer. Also to be found living in the forest are an “impressive” 1,500 wild boar. They had been native to these parts before being hunted to extinction. But then, ten to 15 years ago, an anonymous breeder released a few into the woods, and they have thrived ever since. “It was 9.30pm and the light was fading” when Edgley spotted “a pair of cute stripey-backed boarlets, who shuffled along the path in front of us”. Then it was back to the Tudor Farmhouse hotel (above), in the heart of the Forest of Dean, “where a welcome platter of cold meats and cheeses awaited us”.
From £99, tudorfarmhousehotel.co.uk
Escape into the Cambodian jungle
Shinta Mani Wild is a new social enterprise and “much-admired tented camp by designer Bill Bensley, set deep in the wilderness of Cambodia’s Southern Cardamom National Park”, says Mary Lussiana in The Daily Telegraph. Bensley’s “exuberant, colourful designs” are a far cry from the “prevalent Asian Zen decor”. He adds, instead, a “dusting of magic” to aid the “heady escapist vibe”. Fifteen custom-designed tents “perch alongside the thundering” river Tmor Rung, affording enough privacy to afford a bath tub on the open deck. “It provides an experience not to be missed,” says Lussiana. “Lying in it just after sunrise, I was wrapped in a cloak of jungle sights and sounds.”
From $1,900, bensleycollection.com