Caroline Mills

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If 2016's early Easter has caught you out, fear not! Caroline Mills suggests some woodland walks to enjoy this spring – with an ulterior, chocolatey motive

‘It’ all began when we were touring in our motorhome in France over the Easter holidays one year when the children were young. They thought that the usual hunt for chocolate treasure around our garden wouldn’t take place. OK, so the clues to search specific hideouts might be lost in translation, but for sure we thought, there was no reason why we couldn’t create an Easter egg hunt – right there in the wooded depths of sultry Provence.

So, armed with a bag a-piece, the children searched for chocolate chickens and little golden eggs beneath olive trees, at the base of pungent pine trunks, in amongst the wild thyme and lavender of Les Alpilles. It turned out to be ‘the best egg hunt ever’, even if the locals who came armed with un pique-nique wondered what these ‘mad’ English people were doing. 

Now, an Easter egg hunt in the woods seems to be a tradition for us – why not try it yourself? Taking a wonderful walk through woodland is one of the joys of life, but rarely is there a better time than as spring bursts forth and the trees explode with that vivid lime green which only comes with the first shoots. A month later and the green leaves have lost that newborn glow.

Easter is an early one this year – 25-28 March including the bank holidays – so I’ve made some suggestions of great places in Britain to visit in your ’van where you can enjoy a springtime walk. And, if you’re walking as a family, a great place to begin an Easter egg hunt.

Of course, it goes without saying, that if you are hiding eggs, make sure you know exactly how many there are to find and where you’ve hidden them to ensure you don’t leave anything lying around that could harm wildlife or litter the countryside. When my kids are racing amongst the undergrowth searching for eggs, our golden rule is that nothing will be eaten until the hunt is over – then you know that those little foil wrappers have not accidentally found their way to the forest floor.

The New Forest (Hampshire)

Perhaps the pinnacle of all forests in which to have a treasure hunt, The New Forest was, after all, William the Conqueror’s hunting forest. With fabulous deciduous woodland mixed with open glades and heath, you’ll find somewhere to search for treasure. Just make sure you don’t place eggs near the beautiful New Forest ponies. Sandy Balls Holiday Park covers 120 scenic acres of The New Forest, with 25 acres of the park devoted to numerous leisure facilities, including riding stables, making it a great place to pitch, especially if you're touring with children.

Chew Valley Lake & Nature Trail (Somerset)

Who says kids get to have all the fun on Easter breaks? Munch (quietly, so as not to disturb the wildlife) your way through a box of miniature choccy eggs with your partner while following the Chew Nature Trail, which explores the margins of Chew Valley Lake. Then stop overnight at the adults-only Bath Chew Valley Caravan Park. Year-on-year, this park is a regular in Practical Motorhome’s Top 100 Sites Guides.

California Country Park (Berkshire)

100 acres, the size of California Country Park, should be sufficient for you to go in search of some chocolate. Besides the woodland, ancient bog of scientific significance (8000 years old) and central Long Moor Lake, there are lots of facilities for children including a playground and paddling pool.  You can also stay right within the woods at California Chalet and Touring Park.

Knapp & Papermill Nature Reserve (Worcestershire)

This is a really beautiful off-the-beaten-track nature reserve that’s fabulous for children, with numerous activities run by the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust. The reserve is made up of several areas including gorgeous bluebell woods plus more open riverside meadows and old orchards. And you can pitch your motorhome at Mill House Caravan & Camping Site which is only approximately eight miles away.

Holkham Nature Reserve (Norfolk)

On the North Norfolk Coast, the pinewoods and neighbouring deciduous scrub are a special part of the Holkham Nature Reserve, providing a needle-coated forest floor for walking this Easter break. And, after a stroll in the woods, there’s the small matter of running off some energy on the beach and going in search of seals and jellyfish. Pinewoods Holiday Park is the only campsite on the Holkham Estate.

Cannock Chase Forest (Staffordshire)

A popular open space, it’s not just trees and woodland walks you’ll see on Cannock Chase on your Easter break. Some of the best bike trails in the Midlands are here; along with an adventure play area amid the pine trees and a Go Ape experience. Tiny tots will enjoy the Stick Man Trail, a one-mile activity walk based upon Julia Donaldson’s loveable character. Nearby Pillaton Hall Farm campsite provides views of Cannock Chase.

Brimham Rocks (North Yorkshire)

A magnificent if slightly surreal collection of rocks that appears to erupt from the ground on the edge of Nidderdale. This truly is a natural playground with lots of places to play hide and seek among the rocks and the beautiful Rowan trees and scrub that surrounds them. Stopping at the Riverside Caravan Park in the very attractive town of Pateley Bridge nearby finishes a day off nicely.

Beddgelert Forest (Gwynedd)

One of Wales’ finest forests, you can truly be a part of the 1730 acres of woods by staying at Beddgelert Campsite. Camping under the trees, you’ll sense the peace that comes with staying in such a place, though there are plenty of outdoor pursuits to do in the forest, most accessible direct from the campsite. Could this be the place for your perfect Easter getaway?

The Dark Hedges (Co Antrim)

Walk first, Easter eggs later with The Dark Hedges as this atmospheric ‘hedge’ lines a road, albeit a very quiet country lane. This incredible avenue of contorted beech trees, thought to be over 350 years old (most beech trees live to around 200 years), is known as The Kings Road in the famous TV series, Game of Thrones. Five miles up the road, and just a couple of miles from the equally famous Causeway Coast, is Ballyness Caravan Park, Practical Motorhome’s regional winner for Northern Ireland in the Top 100 Sites Guide 2016.

Calton Hill (Edinburgh)

Set right in the centre of Edinburgh, you can’t fail to get great views of the city from the top of Calton Hill, located at the east end of Princes Street. It’s also a part of Edinburgh’s UNESCO World Heritage Site and the location of several notable buildings and monuments including the Scottish Parliament and Holyrood Palace. There are some great wooded walks for hill climbers and easier strolls ‘up top’ or in Princes Street Gardens at the hill foot. The Edinburgh Caravan Club Site is useful for a city break if you visit Scotland's capital this Easter holiday.

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