6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Somerset Life today click here

Cathedral Firs - Great Wood Walk, near Over Stowey, Somerset.

PUBLISHED: 11:11 08 February 2010 | UPDATED: 09:30 09 October 2012

Take an easy walk in the grandeur of Great Wood, and enjoy looking for deer and the unique birds that call the forest home during winter, says Andy Harris

Take an easy walk in the grandeur of Great Wood, and enjoy looking for deer and the unique birds that call the forest home during winter, says Andy Harris

Situated in the centre of the Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is Great Wood, a 629-hectare area of conifer and mixed broadleaf woodland managed by the Forestry Commission. Criss-crossed with forest roads, footpaths and bridleways, it gives visiting members of the public a wonderful opportunity to create walks to suit them and access all corners of the woodland. However, those looking for a lovely meandering self-guided forest trail which is suitable for families should visit Ramscombe in the northern half of Great Wood. The walk leads you along well-surfaced tracks and takes in stunning views amongst majestic Douglas fir with the opportunity to spot both red deer and roe deer.
Great Wood was formerly part of the Royal Hunting Forests of Quantock and North Petherton in Norman times and later passed into private ownership. There are records of planting of Scots pine, beech, larch and sycamore as early as 1797 and at this time the older oak and elm timbers were used for shipbuilding, while the traditional woodland management technique of coppicing was practised.

Between 1857 and 1860 the last Lord of Taunton had Quantock Lodge built and the woodland provided the sporting venue for the Lord of the Manor. After a gradual decline, the house and forestry land were put up for auction and many parts of the forest were clear-felled during the 1914-18 war. The woodland then passed into the hands of Somerset County Council in 1920, following a short-term ownership by a timber merchant.
Great Wood is an excellent example of modern-day multi-purpose forestry that has created the stunning and continually changing landscape of not only conifer plantation but also heathland, scrub and mature ancient oak woodland. Following the contouring track on the outward section of the walk, the towering Douglas fir have been selected to be parent trees, producing seed to grow into the next generation, a management practice called continuous cover.
Since 1919, when the Forestry Commission was set up to provide a strategic reserve of timber for any future war effort, the business of growing trees has become much more mechanised and this is reflected by how much the staffing levels have changed. In 1922 in Great Wood alone, 108 people were employed, while today five staff cover not just the Quantock forests but also the Brendon Hills more than 2,200 hectares.
The variety of habitats attracts a diverse range of wildlife and although January may seem a quiet month, its a good time of year to see some exciting wintering birds such as crossbills, redpolls, goldcrest and woodcock. In just another months time the early breeding calls of the very secretive long-eared owls may be heard on still nights. The forest provides shelter from the worst of the winter weather but looks magnificent when covered in a layer of snow, which is a real possibility in January.

Boots on? Lets go!
1To find the entrance of Ramscombe drive through the hamlet of Adscombe; the first 150m of track is tarmac with speed humps. Continue to drive into the forest past the first car park to join the one-way loop in Ramscombe, passing the public conveniences. After a sharp right bend the car park can be found under the tall Douglas fir.

2Look for the waymarker (see illustration) which will help guide you around the 2 1/2 mile (4km) route. Walk out of the car park towards the top loop of the one-way system and carry on up Ramscombe with the stream on your left.

3After 230m take the first turning on your left, again you should see a waymarker. From the beginning of this junction there is a slight ascent but once you have reached the top the track more or less follows the contour with views over the forest. After approximately 600m the track dips slightly and comes to a crossroads of tracks continue straight on, following the waymarkers.

4(If you wish to shorten the walk you can turn left and follow the track down hill to the public conveniences and follow the one way system back to the car park.) If you continue to follow the waymarkers the track meanders through the forest for another 1km, descending to a T-junction and crossing a stream, at which point you turn left.

5After a further 700m and keeping the stream on your left you will come to Seven Wells car park and the beginning of the one-way system. Walk along the one-way system and just before you reach the public conveniences turn right into the picnic and barbecue field. Walk directly across the field to a wooden footbridge crossing the stream and turn left to walk back to the car park.

Fact File
Start: Ramscombe (in Great Wood), Over Stowey, grid ref ST168377
Distance: 2 1/2 miles (4km)
Time: 1 hour
Terrain: Forest tracks following red-banded waymarkers, some slopes, one main ascent at the beginning; suitable for families, including pushchairs
Maps: OS Explorer 140 or Landranger 181
Facilities: Toilets and picnic area with barbecues

Ranger profile
Andy Harris began working on the hills as a Ranger in 1996 and is the Partnership Ranger working for the Forestry Commission and Quantock Hills AONB Service. Andys main responsibilities are for recreation and wildlife, which involves leading guided walks and helping visitors enjoy the area, as well as undertaking habitat management such as swaling (heather burning) and wildlife surveys.


More from Out & About


Andrea Cowan takes a look at the heritage and cultural highlights that make the city of Wells so unique

Read more
Friday, September 15, 2017

Crunchy leaves under foot, bracing walks in beautiful countryside and along the coast, cream teas in cosy tea rooms and charming pubs with roaring fireplaces – what’s not to love about autumn in the Somerset?

Read more
Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Being listed as a World Heritage Site opens the door to a wealth of opportunity, as Peter Naldrett discovers in the historic city of Bath

Read more
Tuesday, September 12, 2017

As the colder months draw in, and golden and red hues fill the trees, there’s nothing quite like gathering the family for a stroll through the countryside. Embrace the fresh air, wrap up warm and soak in the beauty of Somerset on these 10 autumn walks

Read more
Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Andrea Cowan reveals her favourite spots in the county to have a break - where the dog can come too

Read more
Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Somerset is home to some of the UK’s most breathtaking coastline, and the landscape is a simply stunning place to enjoy a ramble. We pick six spots ideal for a walk embracing the county’s beautiful beaches

Read more
Tuesday, August 29, 2017

This month Andrea Cowan visits Mells - a village in the Mendips which is full of character

Read more
Monday, August 21, 2017

Simone Stanbrook goes on a journey through this vibrant, creative and historic part of South Somerset and discovers some lesser known facts about it

Read more
Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Summer is the perfect time to visit Bath, as the sun shines on the glorious honey-coloured stone and the elegant Georgian streets are brought to life with a golden hue and fabulously fun things to do

Read more
Thursday, August 3, 2017

Laura Briggs discovers that as Somerton expands with new residential and commercial development, the community is pulling together to create a ‘destination town’ with people at its heart

Read more
Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Are you planning a wedding or know someone who is? Bride: The Wedding Show returns to Westpoint Exeter from October 7-8 for a bigger and better event than ever before...

Read more
Monday, July 24, 2017

This month Andrea Cowan visits Priddy - think circles, barrows and Mendip wallfish. Not forgetting the folk festival

Read more
Friday, July 21, 2017

From playtime and pastimes, to ephemeral and esoteric, Simone Stanbrook-Byrne looks at 30 reasons why we love being at the seaside in Somerset

Read more
Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Bath may be steeped in history but the city’s gardens show that this World Heritage Site is still as fresh as a daisy

Read more
Pure Weddings advert link
South West Life advert link
A+ South & South West

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter
subscription ad

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad
Somerset Life Application Link

Local Business Directory

Somerset's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search