Bowdown Woods

Exploring Bowdown Woods

I imagine we’re probably not alone in having friends and family scattered across the UK. Living in the Midlands, it’s fairly easy to travel to most places, but even so, distance makes it tricky to meet up as often as we’d like without synchronising diaries months in advance to organise overnight stays.

This year, I’ve resolved that in order to spend more time with loved ones, we ought to try and find equidistant locations for days out that everyone can get to without too much travelling. We can have a great time together yet still collapse in our own beds at the end of the day.

With this in mind, when planning a get-together with family who live on the south coast, we looked around the Oxfordshire/Berkshire area for somewhere we could meet up with the dogs, and settled on Bowdown Woods, Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust’s largest woodland reserve in Berkshire.

Cannock Chase featured

Cannock Chase Forest

We’ve been visiting this Area of Outstanding Natural beauty, the ancient Cannock Chase in the West Midlands for years. It’s home to our nearest mountain biking trail centre, and whenever I ride there I always find myself in awe of just how much interest and elevation has been carved out of relatively tame topography. I know the trails inside out on two wheels, but I’ve never explored the area on foot. Basset hounds and red-graded cycling single-track do not mix, so with Olive in tow I set out to discover whether there’s more to this ancient wooded landscape than cycling.

Coed Y Brenin featured

Coed y Brenin Trail Centre

With its flowy singletrack and incredible mountain views, Coed y Brenin is one of my favourite trail centres. Although our most recent visit ended up resembling scenes from the build-up of a 999 reconstruction (crash and serious injury at the furthest point from the car park, dusk settling and one bike light between two) its convenient location and expansive size keeps us coming back.

Featured - 5 Things in Midwales

Recommended – 5 Things To Do in Mid Wales

Mr. Nice Out had been thinking about undertaking a mountain bike skills course for a while. An advanced rider, he was keen to fine-tune his technique, particularly now he’s starting to ride competitively. So as a birthday surprise I booked him onto a one-to-one training day with Stuart at Forest Freeride in mid-Wales at the northern tip of the Cambrian mountains.
Particularly appealing was the use of the quaint and cosy on-site bunkhouse (above left) which was available for the price of a donation of £10 ppn/pn to the Wales Air Ambulance. Win. While Mr. Nice Out was out fine-tuning his bunny hops, I took the opportunity to explore the locale, starting with the Forest Freeride farm itself and slightly bizarre collection of animals…

Featured - Dog-friendly Beach Adventure

An Anderby Creek Dog-Friendly Beach Adventure

We love to be beside the seaside. Which is a bit of a challenge when you live in one of the most landlocked counties in the UK. In fact, It’s Nice Out HQ is only 15 miles to the furthest point from the coast in the whole of the country, which lies in the enchantingly named village of Coton-in-the-Elms, Derbyshire. If we want to feel the sand between our toes, we either need to jump in the nearest sandpit, or prepare to travel. A long way. To this end, we tend to head west and undertake a minimum 4 hour drive to the coasts of Wales and south-west England. These aren’t our nearest beaches though. Our eastern coastline is much closer. But we usually eschew it for its western counterpart. I decided it’s time to reset the compass and reconsider the east to find out if there’s anywhere worth a visit on the Lincolnshire coast. And I’m so glad I did!