I was quite excited to be chosen as an official Forestry Commission blogger as I love spending time outdoors exploring. There is nothing I like more than walking outdoors, with the dog and my son really enjoys the great outdoors as well. The forest we were given an opportunity to explore is Hamsterley Forest, which is in Durham dales between Teesdale and Weardale. The forest is open between 8am and 5pm at the moment, although it stays open till 8pm from April to September.
I must admit I have never been to Hamsterley Forest before, although I have visited several places in the surrounding area. There is some lovely countryside around there so I was looking forward to visiting. This Sunday we grabbed the dog, jumped into the car and off we went. Eddie, the dog was a little bit worried. We do not often take him with us in the car, the only other times he has been in it was when we left him to go on holiday and when he came to us. I think he thought we were taking him somewhere to leave him while we went away. He did a bit of whining on the journey.
Hamsterley Forest is about 29 miles away from where we live. We were not sure exactly where we were going so we used the sat nav. We found the forest easily enough and drove in past the ranger in his cabin at the gate. As it was October the weather was not the best, it was a bit drizzly so we opted to do the forest drive and stop off at the various car parks on the way to explore. There is a four mile drive round the forest which goes right though the middle of the forest. It seemed an ideal way to get our bearings and find out what was there.
The drive follows the river and goes past some spectacular scenery. At this time of year there is a riot of colour as the trees leaves change. We stopped at the first car park we came to and let the dog run about. He was really excited and bounded all over and had a good sniff about.
We found some steps going up a hill and went for a bit of a walk to explore. It was very muddy so we did not go that far in case we slipped but got a good view of the road which is beside a river.
The forest was very busy for the time of year, there were lots of people in the car park and we passed lots of people cycling and walking their dogs. There were even people on horse back. The forest has a number of different grades of walking and cycle tracks. You can choose the difficulty from easy to hard and go on the track of your choice. The walks vary from 1 mile to 4.5 miles so you can go on a gentle stroll or a more strenuous route. I am looking forward to going back in better weather and trying a couple of these.
We put a very muddy dog back into the car and went a bit further to the next car park. I am glad I had bought a blanket or the car seats would have been very dirty. To get into the car park you could go over a bridge or though a ford. Apparently if your car weighed more than three tons the ford needed to be used. The forest was beautiful beside the stream.
On the other side of the car park was a very steep track and my son decided to explore. This is him vanishing off into the unknown. Luckily we did find him again.
Before we left we stopped at the visitor centre to make use of the toilets. Here we also found that there is a cycle hire shop. This is ideal if you do not have a way to bring your bikes with you.
There is also a tea room and gift shop which we did not visit on this occasion. Even though the weather was not the best we really enjoyed our day in the forest and are looking forward to visiting again. We arrived home very muddy and tired and the dog slept for the rest of the night, he was so tired from all the running about.
There is a very useful app that allows you to find out more about what’s on in the forest before you visit, you can download it here: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/mobileapp