Fifteen minutes west of Bridgewater lies the Quantock Hills, a rolling landscape of moorland with pockets of woodland scattered amongst. The great wood lies in a central part of the Quantocks just outside the small village of Nether Stowey.
You can roughly divide the Great wood into two parts, coniferous plantation to the south and the deciduous area in the north, the two being split by a small B road. I spent some time exploring the deciduous area on a crisp and icy December morning. Approaching from the A39 turn onto Mill lane, just on the outskirts of Nether Stowey. Follow this road for about 4km, a small parking area will be on your left, marked on the OS map below.
From the parking area cross over the road and turn right, as if you are heading pack to Nether Stowey, a few meters down the road there will be a sign posted footpath leading to the left into the wood. This will take you all the way up to the fort at the top of the hill, although I confess ancient history was not what I was looking for today. Instead I was heading for the river to take some pictures and work on plant ID.
After the path crosses the road bare right, heading down the hill in Lady’s combe, this eventually intersects the river where I freely explored. The river in Holford’s combe is perennial, so you are guaranteed at least a small stream, although flow can vary a lot depending on the season so set your expectations accordingly.
A few plants I noticed on my wanderings were Wood sorrel, a low creeping trifoliate plant with heart shaped leaves. I found it growing along the banks of the river as it favours growth under cover of trees. In the slower moving portions of the river I identified wild watercress, although consumption of water living plants must always be carefully considered, ensuring a positive ID and other safety measures are taken before consumption. Whilst as to be expected there were a great variety of trees to be seen, duh, a perfect chance to brush up on winter identification which is harder than you may think considering many of us rely on leaves to guide us.
While on the shorter side of walks Holford combe certainly warrants a day trip. Whether it’s to catch a glimpse into the history of the area, or to provide a test of plant identification, the wood has a little bit to offer for everyone. Keep your eyes peeled and tread lightly because if you are lucky you might spot some of the fury creatures that call the wood home.