I’ve been meaning to go to Haldon Forest Park for a while. When I lived in Exeter I would come here quite a lot for it’s well marked trails. It’s perfect for when you want a long circular walk and don’t want to use your energy reading a map. We are really lucky in the south west to have the coast path (not circular) and also Dartmoor and Exmouth (requires map reading), but sometimes, you just want to go for a long walk without thinking about transport or getting lost!
Haldon Forest Park is part of the Forestry Commission and has 3500 acres of woodland, numerous walking, running and cycling trails, a cafe, toilets and a Go Ape. It is currently open 7am- 9pm although this may vary depending on lockdown restrictions and the time of year. There are parking charges depending on off peak/ peak and duration of your stay, please check their website for details.
I decided to go on a week day in the hope it would be fairly quiet, so I was surprised to get there and find the car park quite full. I paid £4 to park for 4 hours which seems like a reasonable price to pay considering how huge and well maintained the Forest is.
They’ve set up some one way measures for social distancing around the toilets and the cafe, but I was a little disappointed there wasn’t some hand gel to use after using the touch screen for the car park ticket, or failing that some spray to wipe the screen. I had some sanitiser in my bag so it wasn’t the end of the world but still.
I was aiming to do the Butterfly Trail which is a 4 mile trial through the Forest. It has yellow waymarkers which is the same as The Way and they bought a smile to my face each time I saw one.
The trail starts off easily enough and takes you straight into some forest which I absolutely loved. I grew up near pine forests and would love walking through the trees with my dad when I was younger and it brought back some lovely memories.
Once you get through the forest you come to a stunning view across the valley towards Exeter. You continue on this path for a bit before going back into the forest.
The walk carries on in a mix of shaded and unshaded path. There were a few other walkers and the occasional cyclist but it didn’t seem as busy in the forest as I had expected from the car park. All the walking trails are on the same path for a certain amount of time, before the Butterfly Trail goes off on its own, after that point I didn’t see anyone else until the trail rejoined the others.
I loved this section of the trail except for two things- 1. I had forgotten sunglasses and a hat and it was definitely sunglasses and hat weather. 2. It was all down hill, which meant at some point the path would need to go up again!
In the end the uphill wasn’t too bad, but it has made me conscious that I definitely need to up my training if I want to walk longer distances.
The butterfly trail was really nice and I wish I had bought a something along to try and identify the butterflies and moths I was seeing.
You eventually get to a point in the path where you can carry straight on to return to the car park, or go back into the forest, we of course went back into the forest. This part of the path then joins up with the end of The Gruffolo Trail before bringing you back to the centre.
All in all it was a lovely walk and one I will definitely be doing again in the future. Easy to follow, moderate to easy terrain (so long as you can manage the hills) and it was also very pretty.
On a side note, this time of year though be mindful of ticks, poor Barley had a couple crawling on him that I managed to flick off back to the undergrowth. Also bring your own hand sanitiser just in case, and your own snack/ drink if you want to avoid the crowds near the cafe.