Haldon Forest Park is a 3,500-acre area of woodland a mere five miles from Exeter city centre. Along the discreetly waymarked Tree Trail you’ll find information boards on the different trees grown in the Forestry Commission-owned park, with sections of each species expertly cut by local artist Sean Hellmann to reveal the quality of the wood within.
From the Haldon Gateway car park, pass The Ridge Café on your left and the ranger’s office on your right and follow signs for the Butterfly Trail and Tree Trail. Turn right on to a wide forest track, passing the large wooden Forestry Commission building on your right, before turning right down a narrow path into Buller’s Hill quarry, a geological Site of Special Scientific Interest. As you enter the quarry, the white flint cliff face on your right is a 60 million year-old seabed, while the small sandy cliff face on your left is a seabed from 100 million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
Continue along the path, through two wooden fences, before entering an area of woodland filled with imposing Sitka spruce trees. Planted in 1922, these trees are currently 40m (131ft) tall, though as the third tallest tree species in the world, they can grow to a staggering 70m (230ft).
At an information display about the Sitka spruce, take the woodland path on your left leading up to a forest track, passing an information board on your left about hybrid larch trees.
1. HALF A MILE
Cross over the track and continue up some steps into an area of woodland dominated by Scots pine, Britain’s only native pine.
At a junction of paths, turn right and follow the track for a few metres before following the wooden Tree Trail sign down a slope, passing through staggered wooden fences and
an info board about birch trees, often known as the Lady of the Woods – in Celtic culture the birch was symbolic of fertility and new birth.
At the bottom of the slope, turn right following the Tree Trail sign that asks the question: what are trees?
At a small forest enclosure, turn left through a wooden
fence and follow the narrow path downhill, through a rhododendron tunnel before arriving at a pond, an important
haven for several species of dragonfly.
2. ONE MILE
Follow the path past the pond until you reach a forest track. Turn left off this track and follow the path for 200m – the gully to your left is called Deadman’s Bottom, because it’s supposed
to be where residents of the local parishes dumped the bodies of plague victims.
Just before this path swings right and rejoins the main forest track, you’re greeted by the park’s tallest tree, a Douglas fir measuring an impressive 42m (136ft) and still growing.
Rejoin the track and continue along it until you reach a junction with another track. Turn right and follow the wide path as it climbs gradually up the hill and all the way back to the Haldon Gateway car park.
Wide forest tracks and woodland paths. This trail
is discreetly waymarked
using arrow and symbol designs scorched into tree stumps and logs, so keep your eyes peeled.
HOW TO GET THERE
By car: Turn off the A38 Devon Expressway at
Exeter Racecourse and follow the brown tourist signs for Haldon Forest Park. The Haldon Gateway Car Park is signposted further along the road on the left. All day parking at Haldon Gateway costs £1.50 for cars, £5
By public transport:
The nearest mainline train station is Exeter (7 miles). From Exeter, catch bus number 360 to Belvedere Tower and then walk for ½ mile to Haldon Gateway car park.
The Ridge Café
Haldon Forest Park, Kennford, Exeter EX6 7XR
☎ 01392 834251
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 110.
Grid ref: SX 884 849
Haldon Forest Park, Kennford, Exeter EX6 7XR;
☎ 01392 834251
Haldon Forest Park is open
all year round, except Christmas Day.