The bluebell woods of Clumber
The route starts in Hardwick village car park and goes through the estate village of Hardwick and into the adjacent woodland.
An easy seasonal walk through ancient woodlands
You walk through this old woodland covered with seasonal bluebells before crossing arable fields and passing the old school house. You then walk down a section of Lime Tree Avenue and through another area of woodland heading towards Clumber Lake. Following the lakeside path will take you back to your starting point.
Hardwick village car park, grid ref: SK637755
Starting from Hardwick Village car park, walk out of the car park with the farm on your right and up through the village of Hardwick. The village was originally for the workers on the estate during the time Clumber was owned by the Dukes of Newcastle. Walking through the village, you walk past an old red phone box and a green post box; both are still used. A short distance after the second speed ramp you can see the War Memorial on the right.
Across the road from the War Memorial are the buildings of the old kennels built in 1896 in which the Duchess of Newcastle kept a selection of dogs. At one time the kennels housed 20 Clumber Spaniels, 30 Borzois, 25 fox terriers and an American wolf. The building is now home to a microbrewery supplying local pubs with a variety of beers.
Shortly after the War Memorial take a right turn at a metal public footpath sign which is pointing in the direction you need to walk. If you time it just right and the bluebell is at the height of the flowering season the wonderful scent fills the air. Some of the oak trees in this woodland are around 500 years old and are the remains of a fragment of ancient woodland present before the park was enclosed in 1707. These veteran trees provide home to many species of wildlife from owls and woodpeckers to butterflies. A tree next to the path is a home to more than 300 bats that roost here during the daytime. From dusk these bats feed on insects within the woodland and a single bat can eat 3,000 insects during the night.
In the spring this fragment of ancient woodland is a carpet of bluebells, which is referred to as an ancient woodland indicator plant as it shows the woodland has been undisturbed for centuries.
Leaving the fragment of old oak woodland you are now in an area of much younger native trees. Continue along this path towards the open field in the distance.
New native woodland
The section on the left of the track is being restored to native woodland. The woodland originally consisted of mature oak trees, but unfortunately these were felled in the early 1900s and replanted with conifer trees such as Scots pine and larch for commercial timber production. These reached maturity in 1990 and the trees were felled once again. The area was planted with over 1,000 young trees to return it to native woodland. As this matures the amount of wildlife will increase.
When you get to the boundary of the woodland the path goes across a field, just before you get to the field take a quick glance to the left and you’ll see a strip of bluebells running along the field edge. The coppiced trees almost form a tunnel over them. Head towards the school house following a yellow waymarker as the path goes round the fence line and then across the field; still following yellow markers. The path eventually meets up with a limestone farm track. Here you turn left.
The School House was the home of the school teacher for the village school in Hardwick and he probably walked along the path you have just come along to get to the school. It's now a private house and as you walk past it you will notice it is hexagonal in shape.
Watch out for traffic on this section of the walk. Continue along the farm track for around ¾ of a mile (1.2 km) until you eventually come to a tarmac road. At this junction carefully cross the road and head downhill. After 200yd (182m) yards a wooden bridle way sign on your right will point you in the right direction, through Scots pine woodland. Follow the path down the slope and at the path junction turn right.
As well as woodland, another major habitat within Clumber is heathland. This fragile habitat has suffered a national decline over the last few hundred years with areas planted with commercial woodland or ploughed to turn it into farmland. Late August sees the heather in bloom with insects collecting the nectar from the pink flowers.
Continuing along the track you eventually get to Lime Tree Avenue which has a double row of trees. Here you turn left to walk between the rows of trees. As you go up the hill you reach a wooden swing barrier and a path on the left. Take this path with a clump of large mature beech trees on your right and continue along this track.
Lime Tree Avenue
Lime Tree Avenue is the longest double avenue of Limes in Europe, along this section there are 1,296 trees. The black band that circles each tree is a grease band that was applied in the 1960s after an epidemic of caterpillars from the winter moth. The female is flightless and climbs up the tree to mate and lay her eggs on the branches of the tree. The caterpillar then emerges when the leaves are young and in the 1960s almost all the leaves along the avenue were eaten by the caterpillars.
When you reach the road, carefully cross the road and head straight into the next woodland. The section of the woodland on your left has a good show of bluebells in spring. The shade cast by the young beech trees help to restrict the growth of bracken and brambles enabling the flowers to become visible. Once you emerge from this woodland you're on open grassland. Head towards the road turning left along it. Again be aware of vehicles using this road.
Although this woodland is called White Pheasant it's unlikely that you will see one. The name was probably given to it many years gone by a Clumber game keeper after seeing an albino pheasant here.
Walking down the slight gradient you will see the lake in front of you and a road crossing it along a raised causeway. Continuing along the road you will reach the other side of the lake. Take the lakeside path through the car park and keep the lake on your right.
In the mid 1980s this area was affected by mining subsidence which caused a change in water levels. The area was once a mixture of trees and grassland, when the water is clear you can see old tree stumps under the water, you may be even lucky enough to see a few fish swimming by. The fallen tree in the middle of the pond is worth a close look as occasionally a kingfisher sits in the branches waiting for a fish.
This is the last section of the walk, and takes you back along the lakeside. When you reach Hardwick toilets on your left, walk along the tarmac path back to the car park. Before taking this path a short detour takes you down to the weir and a wooden bridge, which you can see just round the corner. From here there are good views up the lake towards the chapel or downstream towards farmland and trees in the distance. If you have a pair of binoculars look over the farmland for buzzards soaring above it.
Hardwick village car park, grid ref: SK637755
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