Grizedale Forest, the largest forest in the Lake District, lies in the Rusland Valley around three miles from the village of Hawkshead. The name derives from the Old Norse meaning 'the valley where the young pigs are kept.' The 8,000 acre Grizedale Estate was purchased by the Forestry Commission in 1937.
Grizedale Forest. Click to enlarge
The forest was opened to the public in the 1960's. The current forest is the result of twentieth century planting by the Forestry Commission, who restored oak, larch, spruce and pine woodland. Owing to it's superb setting, Grizedale became the first forest where the Commission attempted to provide recreational facilities for visitors. These facilities consist of a Visitor Centre, a nature trail, a tree top observation tower-perfect for photographing wildlife, an angling club, a wildlife centre and a camp site within the Forest. The pleasant village of Satterthwaite lies within a clearing in the forest.
The southern stretch of the forest, with the Old Man of Coniston in the distance
Grizedale Forest is a haven for a rich variety of wildlife and is home to red and roe deer, squirrels, badgers, foxes, grouse and woodpeckers. Rare white-faced darter dragonflies have been found by the tarns in the forest.
The forest is also famous for its wooden sculptures commissioned by the Grizedale Society, there are around 90 of them in all. The project was commenced by the Grizedale Society in 1977 and in 1990 won the prestigious Prudential Award for the Arts.
There are picnic sites and many well marked footpaths through Grizedale of varying distances, two large tarns lie within the forest, both are on waymarked routes. A colour coded map of the various routes can be purchased from the Visitor Centre and numerous small car parks are supplied. There are two specially designed 'easy going trails' that are suitable for wheelchair users. These are the Ridding Wood Trail and the Millwood Trail.
Grizedale has some superb views of Coniston, Windermere and the Grizedale Valley. The Theatre-in-the-Forest, situated by the Visitor Centre, was opened in 1970, it gives around 120 performances each year. The theatre is opened during the day for exhibitions of local art work. There is a very good cafe and children's play area, also at the Visitor Centre.
Grizedale Visitor Centre and the 'Go Ape' Assault course at Grizedale
The forest also offers excellent facilities for mountain biking. The North Face Trail, a new mountain bike trail, starts at the visitor centre and is 10 miles (16km) long. Cycle hire facilities are available.
'Go Ape!' is an aerial assault course, by the Visitor centre, and has been appointed as Best Tourism Experience, 2005. The course has rope bridges, Tarzan swings and zip slides leading from tree to tree along the forest canopy. A degree of fitness and strength is required. Comprehensive safety instruction is provided by a trained safety instructor prior to starting the course. (Open :- 24 March - 30 Oct. November at weekends only. Booking essential.)