Sav­er­nake For­est

Sav­er­nake For­est con­tains thou­sands of vet­eran oaks, of­fer­ing the op­por­tu­nity to stum­ble upon a re­mark­able tree around ev­ery corner, says Steph Wetherell

Countryfile Magazine - - Great Days Out -


Afew miles south of the his­toric town of Marl­bor­ough lies a sprawl­ing 2,750-acre for­est, once a pop­u­lar hunt­ing area where roy­alty chased stags past trees that still stand to­day.

Sav­er­nake is now in pri­vate own­er­ship (but open to the pub­lic and man­aged by the Forestry Com­mis­sion) and is be­lieved to hold the high­est con­cen­tra­tion of vet­eran trees in Europe. Sev­eral of these spec­i­mens have been be­stowed with names that re­flect their age and his­tory, in­clud­ing the im­pos­ing Big Belly Oak, one of the old­est oak trees in Bri­tain.


Park in the Postern Hill car park, where you will eas­ily find the Bum­ble Oak – not the most im­pres­sive of the named trees, but cer­tainly the eas­i­est to lo­cate – and take the path op­po­site into the for­est.


Af­ter half a mile, turn left at the cross­roads to find the tow­er­ing

White Road Oak, a stat­uesque tree with a girth of 6.95m. Con­tinue down this track, tak­ing the next path on your right, cu­ri­ously named Long Harry.


Af­ter a di­ag­o­nal track crosses the path, walk 100m then take a small grassy track on your left to a clear­ing where you will find

Sad­dle Oak 1 and Sad­dle Oak 2, so named be­cause of the near hor­i­zon­tal growth of their im­mense boughs. Re­turn to the main path and con­tinue for half a mile, peer­ing to your left to spot other vet­eran trees lurk­ing deeper in the woods.


Turn right when you reach the drive. At 3.9 miles, the beech­lined Grand Av­enue is the long­est in Bri­tain and part of the land­scape de­sign im­ple­mented by Ca­pa­bil­ity Brown. Ar­riv­ing at Eight Walks, a strik­ing meet­ing point of paths, take the top-right path, pass­ing through a grassy clear­ing where red kites are of­ten spot­ted cir­cling over­head.


Af­ter half a mile, take a grassy over­grown track on your right (shortly af­ter a small path on the left). At the fork, turn right to dis­cover the newly planted

Re­place­ment King Oak, then re­turn to the left fork to find the Spi­der Oak, Orig­i­nal Queen Oak and New Queen Oak in quick suc­ces­sion. When you reach a cross­roads, turn right and con­tinue for 100m be­fore the track meets the main road, tak­ing a small path on your right by a dead, ivy-cov­ered tree.


There is no of­fi­cial path to the

Big Belly Oak, but 100m af­ter pass­ing an over­grown track, look left for a rough trail that crosses a fallen tree. Fol­low this to­wards the road to reach this 1,100-year-old colos­sus, its 10.8m trunk held to­gether with a wide metal belt. Re­trace your steps, then con­tinue along the path un­til you reach a drive­way; turn right then left at the next cross­roads. Af­ter the path bends to the right, fork left then right as the path be­gins to climb.


Fur­ther down this path you will pass a dis­tinc­tive tree with a bul­bous base, known as Old Paunchy, be­lieved to be around 700 years old. Keep an eye out for small muntjac deer, of­ten spot­ted in the woods, as you con­tinue on to reach a track ahead. Turn left, then im­me­di­ately right on to a small path.


Along this path your will find the magnificent Cathe­dral Oak, over 1,000 years old, along with sev­eral other im­pos­ing oak and beech trees. Con­tinue through the clear­ing, turn­ing right when you meet a track to re­turn to the car park.

Many of the largest oak trees in Sav­er­nake For­est date from the medieval pe­riod

Steph Wetherell is at her hap­pi­est on a long-dis­tance walk­ing path.

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