Marks Hall & Brookes
Two circuits via several fine ancient woods
Summer; spring if you don't mind muddy paths
Flower-rich rides and clearings in the woods, and flowers also along roadside verges; birds in hedges and spinneys and feeding on the fields; perhaps a glimpse of deer.
Bridleways and byways can be very muddy and heavily rutted (EF); paths across arable fields may be ploughed (BC).
Park at Brookes Reserve or at Marks Hall
Brookes Reserve circuit (ABCA) 2½–3 hours; Marks Hall circuit (EFCDE) 3–3½ hours; combined (EFCABCDE or ABCDEFCA) 5–6 hours.
Gently undulating terrain, mainly on well-defined paths or tracks, mostly unsurfaced and at times muddy and rutted. Several short sections on (fairly quiet) roads.
Click on a marker on the map for route details
Stage AB: Brookes Reserve to Maybank Cottage
Follow the bridleway through Brookes Reserve. Turn left when you come out on the road and follow it for 400m past Mott Cottage, and take the bridleway that leaves on the right. Enclosed by low hedges with the occasional oak it runs between arable fields. After 400m turn left when you join another bridleway, a muddy farm track running between gappy hedges. It runs through an arable landscape, but with a spinney or two and mature trees in the hedgerows. After a building on your right the track becomes tarmac and before long you join a lane. Turn right with a horse paddock opposite and follow it down to Maybank Cottage.
Stage BC: Maybank Cottage to Great Monks Wood
Across the road from Maybank Cottage is a footpath sign pointing across the arable field. Head for a waymarker beside the ditch on the other side, and from there follow a gappy hedge on your left, on top of a bank riddled with rabbit holes. At the end of the field you enter a lane past a house and come out on to a road. Turn right, and 100m down take a footpath that goes off left on a grassy strip beside a garden. Bear left across a ditch and follow the ditch round to the right and through a gate. Continue on a grassy track, with briefly a hedge first on your right then on your left, beside a strip of rough grassland. Meeting a narrow strip of woodland, cross a wooden footbridge over the stream then bear left alongside the woodland strip. After 100m turn right to follow a ditch up to an oak then follow the hedgerow on your left. Before the end of the field you come to a stile on your left, bringing you on to a grassy track via a footbridge. Turn right and follow it through a patch of woodland and out on to a road, where you turn right again. Passing a conifer plantation on the left, Great Monks Wood comes into view across an arable field. Follow the road for 400m past Woodhouse Farm until you come to a footpath on the left opposite the road to Pattiswick.
Stage CA: Great Monks Wood to Brookes Reserve
Turn left to walk up the footpath and left again on entering Great Monks Wood, to follow the ride along its edge. Passing a pond you come out into an open area, with a group of oaks in its centre, then plunge into the semi-darkness of dense woodland, relieved by clearings formed as a result of coppicing. You emerge from the wood on to the road. Cross it to the stile immediately opposite and follow the footpath between fences across the farmyard, then along the edge of an arable field with a hedge on your left. Cross a strip of arable, then turn left alongside then through a hedgerow, and right along a grassy track with a gappy hedge on your right. This brings you out on to the road 200m down from Brookes Reserve, up on the right. Look out for fast traffic and for birds around the big oaks half way along.
Stage CD: Great Monks Wood to Crowlands Wood
Continue along the road for 200m towards Potash Farm. Just beyond the farm a footpath turns off on the left. Follow it beside the hedge then straight on across the field, following the line of the power poles, then over a stile back into Great Monks Wood. Soon the path joins a short track that leads between houses on to the road.
Stage DE: Crowlands Wood to Marks Hall VC
Cross the road and follow the footpath opposite on a grass track along the edge of an arable field, with Crowlands Wood on your left. After about 200m the footpath enters the fringe of the wood and the Marks Hall blue trail joins from the left. You pass ponds on your right then 100m on turn right on to a footpath. Follow the hedge on your right until it joins Bungate Wood. Turn left beyond the next hedgerow and follow it back to the Marks Hall visitor centre.
Stage EF: Marks Hall VC to Nuntyﾕs Wood
Head up the concrete track that leads on from the visitor centre, with the fence enclosing the gardens and arboretum on your right. You come to a strip of alder woodland on your left and shortly after the track veers to the right. Here you bear left alongside the alder wood, with open grassland on your right. After the alder wood ends, the concrete resumes and soon you meet Grange Wood on the left, then before long Lilly Wood on the right. The concrete track gives way to an unsurfaced byway that is rutted and, often, wet. On the left Grange Wood gives way to Nunty's Wood, a privately owned ancient wood, in parts planted up with conifers. Soon the byway meets the road and you turn left to follow it along the northern edge of Nunty's Wood, next to a broad ditch.
Stage FC: Nuntyﾕs Wood to Great Monks Wood
At the end of the wood take a footpath leaving left, a grass verge to arable fields following the edge of the woods. At the southern corner of Nunty's Wood turn right to follow a ditch across the field, then right and very soon left to head across a field towards Great Monks Wood, entering via a stile. Continue pretty much straight on through the wood, passing through areas of coppice and an open glade before meeting another footpath close to the southern corner of the wood. From here a short hedged track brings you out on to the road.