Take a walk in these wondeful woods

WHERE better to spend an hour or two on a summer’s evening than a lovely bit of British woodland?

Wednesday, 27th June 2012, 9:01 am

Clearly, the alleged ‘summer’ of 2012 hasn’t yielded too many opportunities for such after-work jaunts so far, but if you get a chance, I can highly recommend a visit to Aspley Wood.

Just south of Aspley Guise, one of Bedfordshire’s oldest (and prettiest) villages, and well worth a visit in its own right, the woods can be accessed either from Woodside, the road which runs along the southern edge of the village, or from the A5130 road between Woburn and Milton Keynes.

It’s part of a large (and continuous, bar an interruption by the A5) area of woodland that stretches from the northern side of Leighton Buzzard and ends at Woburn Sands, featuring lots of footpaths and all sorts of different types of terrain.

We parked in a lay-by in Woodside and entered the woods through the gate opposite the end of Wood Lane, and it’s only a short walk before you’re enveloped by the trees, with the outside world seeming a million miles away.

Taking the first available path off to the right, it wasn’t long before the wood’s feathered inhabitants began to make themselves known.

The tap-tapping of a woodpecker saw me engage in a bit of a wild goose chase to try and glimpse him, but I’m clearly lacking in the stealth department and had to give up in the end.

While I was off battling with bracken and brambles, my husband stayed on the path and was treated to the sight of a buzzard swooping through the trees not far above his head. And not much further along we came across what seemed to be a wren hotspot; there must have been six of the tiny things, flitting from branch to branch as they took part in what sounded like a very lively group debate.

We turned right at the next footpath intersection, pretty much doubling back on ourselves past the Mermaid’s Pond (which isn’t as picturesque as it sounds but is still worth a look).

Then you get a real surprise as you emerge onto an area of sandy heathland, and find yourself on a long, straight path bordered by gorse bushes.

The real revelation, though, is that beyond the gorse on either side are acres of yellow lupins. I don’t know how these came to be here but they really are quite a sight, especially at the moment.

It’s quite bizarre going from the woods out onto such different terrain, and according to my OS map the area off to the left is a quarry, although I’m guessing it’s been filled in, as I couldn’t see any sign of it.

I was glad I’d taken my binoculars out, as we spotted a bird that neither of us recognised. A little bit smaller than a robin, it had mostly dark brown plumage and a lighter, reddish coloured breast, and was perching on top of the gorse bushes making what can only be described as a grunting sound, and flapping its tail up and down.

It was fascinating to watch and a bit of Googling the following day revealed it to be a stonechat.

Taking a path to the right we headed back towards our entry point into the woods. It was only a short walk but with plenty to see, and I’ll definitely be heading back to explore further.

You can also cycle on the paths here. Signs tell you that you need a permit, which can be obtained from the from the Greensand Trust (www.greensandtrust.org), at a cost of £20 a year.