Dazzling bluebell woods and festivals galore – there are lots of memories to create on a spring visit to the National Forest and beyond. Here are six ideas to get you started.
1. Bluebells and breathing spaces
What more refreshing sight to awaken the senses than swathes of bluebells in ancient woodlands: sudden bursts of colour and life in the mysterious underworld of trees. Take a deep breath of cool woody air and explore Jackson’s Bank: part of the ancient Forest of Needwood, it comes alive with seas of luminous blue from April into May, along with other heralds of spring like musky wood anemone, early purple orchid, herb paris and clusters of wood spurge.
2. May for motors, music and medieval knights
There’s a cracking pace to the May and Spring Bank Holiday Weekends, no more so than at Donington Historic Festival (2nd–4th May) where the whiff of burning rubber and roar of motor racing from the 1930s to the 1990s are guaranteed to raise the pulse. Daydream over the Donington Grand Prix Collection, the largest in the world, and then return for another adrenaline spike at the eni FIM Superbike World Championship (22nd–24th May).
The Classic Car Show (3rd May) at Catton Hall may be a little more sedate, but the Bearded Theory Music Festival here (22nd–24th May) brings a throbbing line-up of acts from the Buzzcocks to The Beat. The award-winning family festival is brilliant for kids too, with a Village Green featuring an old-fashioned sports day, magic shows, ribbon dancing and other evocative entertainments.
3. Celebrating canal, crafts and steam
Fancy meeting Vikings, Morris Men, Mr Juggler and a ukelele band? The banks of the restored section of the Ashby Canal at Moira Furnace Museum will be bustling with colour – and boats – during the 15th annual Moira Canal Festival (16th–17th May). The canal was completed in 1804 to carry coal and today’s navigable stretches are popular with boaters. Drop into the museum – originally a 19th-century iron-making blast furnace – to find out more about local industrial heritage and take a trip in a renovated canal boat.
4. Feet first at the National Forest Walking Festival
Whether you’re a gentle stroller or seasoned strider, you’ll find plenty to appeal at the National Forest Walking Festival (16th–28th May). Friendly company, great scenery, welcoming pubs and places to stay for a break, plus over 70 themed and guided walks, mostly free: there’s everything you need to literally put spring into your step.
Routes are graded from easy to strenuous, with history, nature, woods and rivers all at the tip of your toes. Wonderful introductions to the long distance National Forest Way include a 12.5-mile circuit from Ticknall via lovely villages and old houses, and an 8-mile ramble along canal and up hill for views over Burton upon Trent. Make a weekend of it with a ramble from Ashby de la Zouch to Melbourne or Hartshorne to Melbourne.
5. Free your wild adventurer
Come for the day or camp for the weekend, meet intrepid adventurers, go foraging, make a beadwork necklace with a Maasai woman: The Bushcraft Show, 23rd–25th May at Beehive Farm Woodland Lakes, Rosliston, is bursting with excitement for all the family. Turn a nettle into cord, discover how to track animals, thrill to Green Man Storytelling – a walk in the woods will never be the same again.
And how about a bit of outdoors bonding on a Family Bushcraft Day with Woodland Survival Crafts, or try your hand at Wild Food and Wilderness Cookery? Courses take place in the fresh air of aptly named Spring Wood, on the Staunton Harold Estate. With master craftsman Peter Wood of Greenwood Days you can learn to weave garden willow features or create anything from a candlestick to an egg cup on a pole lathe.
You can always get back to outdoor basics with Field Sport UK too: fun, have-a-go archery, fire-making and bushcraft survival activities are just for starters.
6. Escape and pamper breaks
Experience that moment when the world stops and you step off into timeless bliss. At Hoar Cross Hall Spa Hotel, Burton upon Trent, they call it Escape to Paradise and Heavenly Escape: two gorgeous getaways to balance body and mind. At the health club and spa at St George’s Park, you’re invited to Switch Off, make a Fresh Start, or Bounce Back, and at Champneys Springs, Ashby de la Zouch, Easter Spa Breaks are pure, nourishing me-time with massage and pampering treatments.
Also look out from April for the new Marco’s New York Italian by Marco Pierre White, opening at Best Western Premier Yew Lodge Hotel, Kegworth. Serving Italian/American food in a relaxed setting – pizzas, pasta, Marco’s special BBQ ribs and lazy fries – it’s the hottest table in town.
You can Download a Visitor Guide for more info.
(Featured photo credit: National Forest Company / Jacqui Rock).