Walk 11 - Swithland
This walk takes about 70 minutes leisurely, is a little muddy at times but is basically on lanes or firm surfaced footpaths.
From the west (Woodhouse) end of the village walk out of the village towards Woodhouse Eaves and at the road junction keep left. Follow this road until just after it swings to the left and on your left take track running beside the woods toward a caravan park. Take care as these are quite busy roads.
Where this track ends and becomes a path go to your left and enter the woods.
There are a lot of small paths here but follow the stronger path keeping the hill on your right. This drops down to an even bigger track. Turn left.
Follow this path for some distance but after you skirt an open area look for a path going straight on out of the woods where the track actually swings left.
Turn right along the road and you return to the village
If you wish to avoid much of the road walking, after taking the left fork in the road you can enter the woods through the car parking area rather than the caravan site track. If doing so leave the second car park area and follow that path running parallel with the track to the hill where the first route enters the woods.
This rough sketch might assist.
Swithland Woods were bought by the Rotary Club of Leicester in 1931 and donated to the people of the county. It is now managed by Bradgate Park Trust. Further purchases have since been made.
The woods contain two flooded disused quarries (with an inscription on the side recording the Rotary Club's donation). Swithland slate is a traditional local roofing material.
Access to the quarries is prohibited.
Swithland Wood is one of the few woodland areas in Leicestershire of national nature importance (being on acid loamy soils) and a significantly important area of ancient woodland in the East Midlands.
It contains some of the best remaining examples of oak, small leaved lime and alder woodland in the county and as such is an ecologically rich habitat It also includes holly trees, some conifers,
wildflower meadows, woodland glades, marshes and rock outcrops making it one of our more diverse landscapes. The area is poorly drained giving numerous damp parts but despite this there are really no streams in the wood. Several ditch systems run into larger ditches with some appearance of natural watercourses but these often dry up.
It has a very important, rich and varied range of flora and fauna including a diverse butterfly, moth and bird population. The area is popular in spring for its wood anemones, bluebells and other spring flowering bulbs which cover large areas of the woodland floor. Whilst not obvious it also sits on the remains of ridge and furrow, the ploughed land of our medieval ancestors.
'Swithland' literally means 'land cleared by burning'. The village and its neighbouring woodland bear testimony to a period during the Middle Ages when land in this area was being cleared of trees to create space for new villages.