Holyford Woods nestle a few miles from the World Heritage Jurassic Coast behind the picturesque and popular Seaton Bay. It’s a world away from the hustle and bustle of the seaside and offers a tranquil escape that is ideal for a family outing.
In spring the woodland is carpeted in bluebells and the air is heavy with the scent of wild garlic. The undergrowth in Holyford Woods is a miniature wonderland and is the perfect place for inquisitive youngsters to explore. Delicate wood anemones pepper the ground in early spring, fallen trees provide crevices for woodland birds to nest and bats to roost, while the tangled roots provide nests for weasels and wood mice.
Pull into the layby opposite Seaton Heights filling station, on Seaton Down Hill road, and walk back to the A3052. Carefully cross the road and pick up a footpath signed Holyford Woods Local Nature Reserve. Walk down the field then go through a kissing gate to an information board. Continue on this path then take the lower path into woodland. You’ll come to a pond on your right, which in early spring will be brimming with frogs.
Turn left before the bridge and follow a footpath that runs alongside the babbling brook. It’s a delightfully peaceful stretch of woodland, with ferns and bluebells on the banks and a wide range of native trees on the hillside – mainly ash, oak and hazel. The biggest oaks have been growing here for 300 years or more.
As the path rises, stand quietly and scan the opposite bank for roe deer, badgers and foxes. Buzzards and kestrels circle above and you might be able to pick out the sound of a woodpecker in the trees.
Turn right over a wooden bridge. Take time to investigate the undergrowth around here, which is a muddle of roots, fungi and moss-covered branches. You might even see evidence of the nationally scarce dormice – look carefully at any dropped hazelnuts; while grey squirrels use their powerful teeth to crack them open, dormice nibble a neat circular hole in each nut.
Continue on this path as it meanders uphill, then climb steps left. Bear right, then left with the path until you appear back at the pond. Here you can explore a little further uphill to the left, or cross the stream and retrace your footsteps to the car.
“This short walk is ideal for children. When I visited in early spring there was a deafening hum of frogs from the pond, deer rustled about in the undergrowth and squirrels scampered in the trees. For such a small area it’s overflowing with wildlife.”
Jo Tinsley, Outdoors editor, Countryfile Magazine
Well-marked paths; ideal for families.
How to get there by car: Holyford Woods is near Colyford. Driving along the A3052 towards Seaton and Colyford, turn right, signed Seaton, at the Seaton Heights filling station. Drive a little way and park on the right-hand side of the road. The entrance to the reserve is a short walk back to the main road, along a footpath opposite the Seaton turn-off.
By public transport:
The Jurassic CoastLinx X53 service runs every two hours between Exeter and Weymouth, via Sidford, Beer, Seaton, Lyme Regis, Bridport.
Wheelwright Inn Swan Hill Road, Colyford EX24 6QQ % 01297 55258
The White Hart Inn Swan Hill Road, Colyford EX24 6QF % 01297 553201
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 116. Grid ref: SY 232 913
Holyford Woods Local Nature Reserve
Holyford Woodland Trust % 01297 552316 www.datacottage.com/holyford
Visit Devon www.visitdevon.co.uk