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Sugababes, Santa and solitude at Delamere Forest
Delamere Forest Park (Cheshire)
Member Name: markos9
Delamere Forest Park (Cheshire)
Advantages: Beautiful location and so much to see and do
Delamere Forest in Chester is a remnant of the ancient forests of Mara and Mondrum; used as hunting grounds as far back as Norman times. Now, a shadow of its former self at a 'mere' 950 hectares, the forest is a thoroughly modern tourist centre for the 21st Century.
Getting there and parking
Delamere Forest is easy to find, some 10 miles east of Chester. There are six car parks scattered around the park; some are pay and display, but my favourite, Barnesbridge Gates, is free. If this car park is full, there are plenty of parking spaces at the roadside here. Details of all the car parks can be found here:
Hundreds of years ago, the forest was a haven for wildlife. Wild boar, deer and wolves patrolled the woods, and bird life was plentiful. In the 20th Century, however, vast tracts of the ancient woodland were replaced with stands of fast growing conifers to fuel Britain's thirst for wood.
Thankfully, the wood is now managed more sympathetically, broadleaved trees have replaced many of the conifers, drained areas (such as Blakemere Moss) are being flooded and the wildlife is flourishing again.
Birds include great spotted and green woodpeckers, siskin, redpolls, and occasionally crossbills, whilst in summer, the woods will resound with the gorgeous songs of migrant warblers such as whitethroat, chiffchaff, and blackcap. Common lizards can be found here, badgers are common and Delamere is one of the first sites in the county to be re-colonised by the polecat.
The Forestry Commission which manages the forest has been very proactive in providing walking routes through the forest. There are several colour coded trails covering many miles, some with hard surfaces. One of the most popular walks in Cheshire, the Sandstone Trail passes through the forest.
The large size of the forest, and the variety of landscapes found within (conifer plantations, broadleaf trees, and wetland areas) means that the keen walker can wander for miles in quite beautiful surroundings.
Those seeking solitude (like myself) can visit early in the morning where the only companions will be the birds singing in the trees whilst the sun filters through the green canopy. At this time of day, the forest is still sleepy, mist rising from the ponds and lakes; with nature seeming to pause before beginning the day's activities.
One of my favourite walks is from Barnsbridge Gates to Pale Heights. This takes me through the woods, across farmland, to the summit of the largest hill in the region. At 587 feet high, Pale Heights towers above the forest and gives superb views of Liverpool, the Clywdian mountain range of Wales, and the Dee estuary.
Concerts! In a forest? Well yes, Delamere is getting quite a reputation as a pop venue with Jools Holland, The Sugababes, Status Quo and others, all performing here over the last few years. As an open air venue, Delamere is quite an impressive location and has been quite successful since the concerts were first organised.
With so many miles of good quality paths, it's no surprise to find that Delamere is a very popular cycling venue. Bikes can be hired from the visitor centre. There is also a dedicated mountain bike course located at Fox Howl in the west of the forest.
Go Ape is a high wire forest adventure course and the Delamere centre is the largest in the UK. Skimming along rope bridges and swinging 35 feet above the forest floor is, if you're not afraid of heights, quite an experience (don't forget to wave to me, watching from the safety of terra firma!).
There is a visitor centre at Linmere car park. The centre has a café, toilets, disabled toilets, and information centre providing maps and details about the forest. The centre is close to the start of several of the forests' trails.
Christmas at Delamere
For me this is the most magical time at Delamere Forest. The forest is used to grow Christmas trees and what better place to buy your tree than from where it was grown. Thousands of trees of several different types are for sale in December, but a trip to Delamere at this time offers so much more than buying a tree.
I usually take my nieces here; they select the tree, but only after visiting Santa's grotto. This is the best grotto I've ever seen within a wonderful location. Located in the heart of the forest, Whitefield Car Park is transformed into an honorary Lapland for a few weeks of the year.
The grotto is massive, with an indoor trail packed with trees, ornaments and exhibits for the visitor to enjoy during the inevitable queues to see the bearded old bloke.
After visiting the grotto, food can be obtained from the mobile cafés before having a look at the shop which stocks traditional and modern Christmas ornaments and decorations.
If the kids are still energetic, there's a trail through the woods to spot the various (wooden) reindeer. This trail leads to a wishing tree where the kids can leave a wish for Christmas.
I can recommend Delamere for buying your Christmas tree; the location and the efforts put into the setting make this an enjoyable day out for the whole family.
As you can hopefully see from my review, Delamere Forest Park is a wonderful resource for locals and visitors alike. The forest is extremely popular, but its size means that even on busy days, peace and solitude can be found. If you find yourself in Cheshire on a nice day and want a cheap day out, pop down to the forest and discover this lovely green oasis in the middle of the Cheshire plain.
More information, including locations and events can be found at:
Summary: A wonderful resource for locals and visitors.
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