Shute Woods Circular Woodland Walk (nr Axminster/Honiton/Colyton)
Sometimes on a Sunday we really do need to get out of the house, and at this time of year (mid-December as I write this) there’s only so much loafing around watching 90’s Christmas films we can do before we need to surface for air. (Don’t get me wrong, I love a bit of Home Alone and a tub of Quality Streets but I find that everyone goes a bit crazy (actually, unbearable) if stuck indoors for too long!)
Our youngest is three so when it comes to going for a walk we do have to consider how far she is realistically going to get before requesting a piggyback (her walking is fine, it’s more about levels of cooperation!) and we’ve pretty much now ditched the buggy. But this does open up the rougher forest-y routes that aren’t buggy friendly.
A few weeks ago we tried out a route suggested by one of my favourite local blogs Flip Flops or Wellies at Shute Woods. (Should I be worried that my computer keeps autocorrecting Shute to Shite?) Well, happily, there’s nothing ‘shite’ about this woodland walk – you can just do a really simple, short and easy 20-minute circular or make it as long as you like by exploring some of the many paths shooting off from the main route.
As an added bonus there’s an area not far into the walk that’s ideal for a bit of proper natural outdoor play for the kids – adding sticks to the stick-dens, hanging off tree roots, and sliding down the muddy banks, that sort of thing.
We went again today and if it hadn’t been getting dark, I think our kids would’ve stayed there getting some seriously muddy backsides for ages this afternoon.
It’s not buggy friendly as it’s muddy and rough in areas, but a great place for younger and older walkers and you can take the dog.
Shute Woods is an area of ancient woodland wedged n between Axminster, Honiton and Colyton. I’m sure there are many other ways to access the woods but the start to this particular route is from a small overgrown car park, the first left after Little Orchard Alpacas – and to get there, find your way to small hamlet of Shute from the A35 and take the lane that sweeps around the left hand side of Shute Barton House (it looks a bit like a castle, you can’t really miss it) and past the primary school.
From the car park – which is free, but I reckon it might be a bit of a rural crime hotspot due to its ‘out in the sticks’ nature so don’t leave any valuables in the car etc – go through the overgrown gateway on the right side of the car park and join up with the leafy path heading uphill.
Although the pathways are easy to identify and follow, the route isn’t marked at all so you do really have to follow your nose and circular sense of direction. The route we take feels like a proper ‘ring’ shape ending back up at the car park - I’ve included some photos in case you want to try and recognise our route from your phone!
Eventually the path heads back towards the alpaca farm and opens out a bit with far reaching views – and it’s here that you’ll find the natural playground for kids. It looks as though a big bowl has been cut or quarried out of the ground and it’s a leafy, twiggy, outdoorsy paradise for kids who like building dens, climbing and playing forts.
We then take the narrow path closest to the edge of the hillside heading downhill (nearest to the alpaca farm – you can see the flat field down below and as you near the car park you can see the alpacas too) to get back to the car park, and that concludes the walk.
(Pic above - the path back to the car park from the dug-out area)
As I said earlier, there are lots of paths leading off the main short ring, so if you’re handy with a map (unlike us) you could really extend the walk as far as you like – Flip Flops or Wellies makes mention of a beacon with views so that might be a route to look up. We did try going a bit further before looping back the first time we went but it was really boggy at the time and we had no idea where the path led, so we returned back to familiar ground.
No blog of mine would be complete without a tip for where to go if you’ve worked up a ravenous appetite from the 20-minute saunter through the woods.
There’s lots of great places within a 10-minute drive if you want to extend your day – you could drop in to Millers Farm Shop for a look around and lunch/snacks in the cosy woodburner Teapot Café; or if you’re a slave to coffee then Starbucks is just down the A35. Another recent discovery is the Grazing Cow about 10 mins up the A35 towards Honiton (look out for the lifesize plastic cow visible from the road which is a good clue) – amazing breakfasts, lunch, coffee and cake etc and I think they even have a toddler play area in their enclosed outdoor garden for the warmer months.
And lastly, since the start and end to this walk is right next to Little Orchard Alpacas, you might like to follow them on Facebook as from time to time they do open days with opportunities to meet and walk with the fluffy residents on a lead!