Updated: Sep 3
It was while I was planning a visit to Ludgershall Castle that I noticed Collingbourne Wood. On the Ordnance Survey map I could clearly see an enormous forest just north of the town and Castle, with multiple way-marked paths. Not quite as large as its more famous neighbour to the North, Savernake, but large enough that it should surely be better known? It fit the criteria of "Hidden" Wiltshire so I made my way there on a hot summer day.
The wood itself is managed by the Forestry Commission but a quick google search showed no information on it on the website. I still find this intriguing. This ancient wood full of Beech trees seems to have fallen under the radar.
I started my walk from the car park at Ludgershall Castle, and walked through a field that was a dense colour of red from vibrant flowering poppies, before I hit the entrance sign. Before long I was in the welcome shade of the wood, and the road gave way to a footpath into the woodland itself. The trees were tall and well spaced out and the route took me deep into the forest, until some miles later I found myself exiting the north entrance. At this point it should be noted that on a Saturday afternoon in the middle of summer, I did not encounter another soul in the wood. It was a peaceful and solitary journey.
At the top end of the wood, I turned right and followed the path through Shaw Down, and a fields of crops. The footpaths were wide and well maintained as the farmer had made sure that his crops were planted away from the path. As the path moved downhill the view was incredible as the fields were a red sea of poppies in between the rapeseed crop - a common sight in Wiltshire during the summer of 2019.
Eventually the path took me back into the wood where I could hear a distant roar of motorbike engines as the Motocross riders were active in nearby Coldridge Wood. Although I could hear, I did not see them on my journey. Near Fairoak Copse I did spot a den in the distance covered by a blue tarpaulin. I heard a lone person sneeze and could smell some fruity aromas floating towards me on the wind, as whoever was in the den was smoking something interesting. But still, I did not see them and they did not see me so my walk remained a solitary one.
Eventually the walk exited the wood and I completed the trudge back to the Castle along some more fields. The whole route was well over six miles and in the heat my body was feeling it.
Overall, it was a wonderful place to explore. Ancient yet peaceful. Large, but not quite big enough to get truly lost in.