THE NATIONAL FOREST WAY
At the start at the National Monument Arbretum, Alrewas, Staffordshire.
My first night's camp at Linhurst farm, Rangemore - with permission.
The National Forest Way logo.
THE NATIONAL FOREST WAY
- my schedule; mileage, number of steps taken and calories used.
June 24th - 28th. 2017.
Revd. John N. Merrill
Day One - June 24th. 2017 - The National Memorial Arboretum to Linhurst Farm, nr. Rangemore - 16 miles, 33,961 steps, 1,297 calories.
Day Two - Linhurst Farm to Moira Campsite - 20 miles, 40,014 steps, 1,655 calories.
Day Three - Moira Campsite to Ticknall - 17 miles, 33,306 steps, 1,293 calories.
Day Four - Ticknall to Ellistown - 18 miles, 36,978 steps, 1,441 calories.
Day Five - Ellistown to Beacon Hill & Woodhouse Eaves - 23 miles, 45,254 steps, 1,779 calories.
- Mileage - 94 miles. (Note - additional walking to start, end and accomodations made the overall mileage - 100 miles.)
- Steps taken - 189,513
- Calories used - 7,465
REPORT ON WALKING THE NATIONAL FOREST WAY -
WEST TO EAST. June 24th - 28th. 2017
- Revd. John N. Merrill
Several friends kept informing me about this new long distance route, but none said they had walked it! I was eager to walk it as I had written several walk guides to the areas the route passes through; namely - Walking the Trent & Mersey Canal - End to end; Short Ciruclar walks in East Staffordshire; Short circular walks in South Derbyshire; Short Circular walks in Charnwood Forest; Long Circular walks in Charnwood Forest and my 24 mile Charnwood Forest Challenge Walk. The plan was put on the pile of walks to do.
I chose to walk the route west to east - from the National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas, Staffordshire to Beacon Hill near Woodhouse Eaves in Charnwood Forest, Leicestershire. This is a worthy hill at the end. I carefully highlighted the route on my three OS Explorer maps from the information of the route’s website. It stated that the whole route was 75 miles long, but on several sections were much longer than stated; my GPS recorded 94 miles for the whole walk. I did 100 miles overall with having to walk to start and end, and to overnight stops.
Basically the route is a good one, much through woodland, past attractive villages, and many reservoirs. But is has major problems.
1. The signage is very poor and not consistant. The walk’s logo may look good on an artists drawing board - with pastel red, yellow and green and white lettering. But this is not suitable for the countryside, the sun soon fades the colours leaving a blank circular disc. Staffordshire was by far the poorest waymarked and South Derbyshire a little better. Leicestershire was a great improvement with signs from the roads of the route, but with inaccurate mileage on. Whilst I had the route marked one was still in a delema in a wood with three paths. No signs indicating the true way. Often I set off down a path a found a sign along the route - why not at the start? I lost the route completely on three occasions. Yellow topped posts were often along the route but many did not have the walk’s logo on causing doubt and many hidden by foliage. The route should be marked uniformily all the way and as a basic principle when standing at one logo you should be able to see the next. At the moment you reach a road and village and nothing indicates the way. I walked through guided by my map and find where it leaves the road, but often there was no logo on the post where the path begins. In Bradgate Park there are no signs or logo’s; only on entry and exit.
2. The state of the paths is very bad; half the route is along almost indiscernable paths and in June hopelessly overgown. Many were a wall of nettles and brambles and one in particular was impassable and I had to climb over the fence and walk round that section. Another was along a hedged path which was so overgrown I had to crawl my way along. Some paths through crops were cut and defined others not and two rape seed fields were a nightmare.
3. Ammenities. There is little for a true backpacker. The first night I eventually found a farmer who allowed me to camp in a field of mowing grass. I had asked at three farms as I walked but was refused. One even had a caravan site and an inn in a village had a small caravan site but neither would allow me to camp. I don’t like to camp without permission and I suggest that some of the recreation grounds in the villages allow an overnight stop. There was a visitiors Centre in the Queen Elizabeth’s Forest and an open hide beside Foremark Reservoir, which have been ideal. Moira is the only place along the route with a Youth Hostel and a fine campsite. There is very little B & B accomodation actually on the route, except at Ticknall - just off the route - the Tea Room and Staff of Life Inn. After that there is nothing and I had to take a bus to Ipstone, which was closed and had to take another bus to Coalville, and walk a mile to a Guest House.
I can never understand why route planners always create a route and bypass villages. These are what a backpacker and walker needs - a shop or inn, plus its history. For instance, Ticknall is largely bypassed and the walker misses the church, ruined church and one of the finest lock-up’s in the country.
4. The route is not known. On the entire route I only met one person who had heard of it and knew where it went in his location, as he walked his dog along it. He agreed it was very poorly marked and the paths overgrown. I met no other walkers either doing a day walk or attempting to walk it all. At the National Memorial Arboretum there was no directional arrow on the National Forest Way Information - there was none on the others along the route. I asked at the information desk and they looked at me blank - never heard of it they said! I had walked the route from Alrewas to the start. But one official said he knew the route and told me to walk to the river and turn left and would come to the Trent & Mersey Canal. I attempted to do this, thinking, as I had seen no signage, that the route had been changed. But I followed the river and came to a dead end! I retraced my steps back to Alrewas and reached the Trent & Mersey canal and the way.
I now have to consider what to do with the very detailed information and photo’s I have gathered along the way.
Revd.John N. Merrill - June 30th. 2017