Trail through the tress Wild running routes

Why you should escape the streets and explore local forest trails

Trail running is a great way of seeing some of the prettiest parts of the UK, but it can be daunting if you don’t know where you are going and you worry about getting lost. The Forestry Commission is aiming to help by getting more people off the streets and onto the gorgeous trails in the country’s best forests. There are a number of planned running routes all over the country that you can try out. See 13 forest running trails you need to complete for details on some of the great routes available. We asked RMR member Jenny New to trial one of these great forest trail routes and let us know how she got on – here is her experience at Bedgebury.

Find out more about running in your local forest here:

A post popped up in my Facebook feed from the Run Mummy Run running community asking for volunteers to review the Forestry Commissions’ new trail running routes in a variety of locations across the UK.

I was planning to holiday on the south coast, so I decided to visit Bedgebury Forest. So where is it? Halfway between Rye and London, in a truly stunning part of the Kent countryside.

Excited but nervous

I was excited and, if i’m honest, I was also a little bit apprehensive. I realised that I was a bit scared of the thought of running on my own in the wild!

I took a photo of the pdf guide and used this to navigate.

I arrived at 8am, which is when the forest opens. There were only two other cars and very few people around. It reminded me of California. (Tip: Arrive early as it gets very busy especially a weekends.)

The route

The run starts at the edge of the car park with a half mile or so gradual climb (you come back down this section at the end of the run – the only part where the route covers the same ground).

The first part of the run was mostly on fire track gravel roads, in fact most of the run was. There were quite a lot of flat sections with the remainder being undulating. The hills were gentle rather than being intense and steep.

There was one short steep downhill where I managed to run so fast that I thought I was going to fall – my pace was twice as fast as normal, brilliant!

The joy of trails

The lovely dappled shade on much of the route was welcome. Some of the trail was on sandy paths and a small amount was on grass. I wasn’t too keen on the sections along the principal trails. I much preferred the grassy section which was near the end. I wonder whether a route could be developed so that you could run more off the beaten track?

At times, I felt isolated but in a good way. The forest is beautiful. I saw a deer, 4 other runners and I passed 2 or 3 mountain bikers. Everyone was really friendly and I felt the love for this place. The smell of pine is intoxicating.

Fun for all the family

The added bonus is that you could come with your family and then have some time on your own in the knowledge that there are other things for them to do in the meantime (kids’ trail, Go Ape, biking, playgrounds, cafe – loads of wooded play areas).

The map could have been better.  I mainly relied on the written explanations and this slowed me down quite a lot. It would have been much better to have  been able to look at simple route markers.

If you are used to trail running across wild mountains then you would most likely find this route tame and more like road running without the pollution.

For me, running in this forest reminded me of being a child. I’m really pleased that the trail took me to parts of the forest that I might not have gone to on my own.

Oh and did I mention that apparently pine needle tea has more health benefits than you can shake a stick at (sorry) and slows the ageing process. I’m hooked on that and Bedgebury.

This review was written in 2016. Please visit the Forestry Commission website to find out more about the routes available to run now. 

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