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  • Julie Muller

RIDGEWAY WOOD- (HR8 1RA) - Yew are Here

Updated: Jan 28, 2022

(Nearest post code - WR13 6HW)

Visited by Zak and Shep

Ridgeway Wood is a SSSI which is located between Eastnor Deer Park and the bottom of the Herefordshire Beacon (British Camp). Although you can access it from either end, today we found our way into it from Eastnor's beautiful deer park. The entrance wasn't easy to find but luckily Zak spotted a promising track that took us straight into the woods past a large pheasant coop which seemed fairly empty of birds.

As we walked up the track, a large male pheasant emerged from the bushes, saw us, panicked and bolted across the track. In its haste it dived under the gate of a pheasant compound designed to incarcerate it banging its head violently on the bottom edge as it entered. All of the time it chuntered and swore at us.

Finally, we were in Ridgeway Wood and we were relieved to see bright yellow footpath signs to show us that we were definitely on the ‘right track’ (although we must have strayed off the straight and narrow to get here.)

Two sheepdogs walk along a yew tree shaded track in Ridgeway Wood in Herefordshire
Zak and Shep walking through Ridgeway Wood, in Herefordshire

There was a well-established track that runs straight along the length the wood and is called 'The Ridgeway'. This name is given to many ancient tracks that run along the high ridges of fields.

The track was incredibly dark as most of the trees that line it are evergreen yews which retain their leaves throughout the year. The large mature yews on either side of the track clasped their branches above our heads and so it was like walking through a long dark green tunnel. The yews were huge with beautiful soft russet bark.

Yew trees are native to Britain and can live for centuries. One such yew tree in Perthshire in Scotland is thought to be between 2,000 and 3,000 years old but it could be as old as 9,000 years. Druids held yew trees as sacred in pre-Christian times because of their long lives and also because they can regenerate from boughs that touch the ground Thus, the yew came to symbolise death and resurrection in Celtic culture and have been known as the tree of life.

The ground beneath the trees was bare but there was the unmistakable scent of squirrel.

We plodded along the track which seemed to go on for ever - ever watchful. As usual Shep was particularly ‘wired’ and he jumped at every crackle and creak in the boughs above our heads.

The rumble of traffic was becoming more obvious as we advanced along the track. The yew trees were increasingly replaced with laurel and holly bushes which sprouted long low horizontal boughs parallel with the ground and which were adorned with fluffy waterfalls of travellers joy otherwise known as old man’s beard.

The path beneath our paws became wetter and muddier as we found ourselves on ground churned up and carved up into wedges by heavy forestry vehicles.

Various felled trees lay abandoned on the ground and I couldn’t resist the chance to jump over them in spite of my arthritic limbs. Not bad for an older dog!!

Somehow we had to get back up onto the Herefordshire Beacon. We followed a steep forestry track walking in deep sided ruts. After our long walk it took a lot of effort but, more by luck than judgement we finally emerged on to the ramparts of British Camp. At last we were on the final furlong home – All three of us were absolutely plastered in mud. What a brilliant day!!

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