by Katie Isham.
If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise. Or not. You’re sure to find trees. Don’t roll your eyes – I saw that. Of course there are trees, but over at Telegraph Woods there is a colony of beautiful, breathing, heaving trees to meet; you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a magical realm.
Telegraph Woods is more than fifty acres of woodland on the eastern outskirts of Southampton. On the drive from the city centre to the retail parks, you almost trip over this treasure of timber. For solitude and that particular type of quiet you only truly find under a canopy of trees, this is the place to go.
Sometimes you forget how amazing trees can be. And this is just the place for some good old-fashioned tree spotting. Big trees, skinny trees, gnarly trees, knobbly trees, twisted trees, towering trees, touch-the-sky trees, horizontal trees, huggable trees, mossy trees, walk-through trees and even houses made from trees. Anyone would think it was a forest in there.
Enter through the main gate and you’ll face a long straight avenue flanked by tall trees. Is there anything more enticing? An invitation to adventure. A brown leafed road to a whole wonder of possibilities.
Branch off (sorry) down any of the side trails for adventure. You might stumble, quite literally if you’re not careful, upon a steep bank blessed by a lofty rope swing. Or you might enjoy the crisscross channels carved out by thrill-seeking cyclists across the roots and hills of the forest floor. I chose to forgo these adrenalin rushes, preferring my adventures more sedate.
I prefer the route less travelled. I ducked under branches, navigating the narrower paths. I took the time to notice the fluorescent-green moss, the fungi and the pools of morning rain hitching a ride on the giants that live so gracefully and with quiet purpose amongst our hectic existence.
Telegraph Woods has countless secret pathways and hidden clearings to explore. Any woodland has a mysterious feel to it. The trees gather, somehow seeming like they are both eavesdropping and ignoring you at once. It gives you a chance to experience being a small part in a bigger story.
Venture deep into the trees and listen. Watch a squirrel duel high up in the canopy. Enjoy the dappled spring sunshine dare to sprinkle the thick, mulchy carpet with light. Feel your heart thump as you push yourself up a vertical path without looking down. Skip across the tiny one slab pond crossing. Yes, like all my favourite walks, there’s a bridge (of sorts) to navigate.
At the far end of the woodland, you’ll discover a small pond that swells following heavy rain. After venturing through the fairy-tale woodland, the trees peel back to present the magical mirror echoing the beauty of the trees and the sky above. Take a moment of reflection before heading back into the woods to ask your new-found tree friends to point you in the direction of the ending of your forest (mild) adventure.
Cost: Free to explore the woods. Might cost a bit for the washing powder to get clean afterwards.
Accessibility: For motorists, turn off the A27 onto Telegraph Road and you might be lucky to find a small amount of on-street parking by the entrance. Good sturdy paths along the main artery, but turn off into the woods and the paths are decidedly less wheel-friendly. Some stretches are currently less foot-friendly as well: wellies advised!
Facilities: Trees, trees and trees. No toilets or refreshments available.