Two stunning days of early winter sunshine so time to do a bit of exploring in the forest.
Saturday morning saw us heading out to Billa Barra Nature Reserve - the site of one of the 6 noon columns that are sited within the National Forest.
I am very familiar with the noon columns at Sence Valley and Staunton Harold but had never got around to exploring any of the others. Then in September, when walking the Charity Link Leicestershire 3 Peaks Challenge we passed through Billa Barra Nature Reserve and lo and behold there was a noon column. By this time we were quite a few hours into the challenge and feeling a little the worse for wear - I think my walking buddies, Vanessa and Bernadette, thought that I'd completely lost the plot when I suddenly perked up and started shouting 'Look, Noon Column!'. Once I'd explained the whole noon column concept they got with the programme though and subsequently a plan was hatched for some of the 2018 Ashby Life walks to visit the various noon columns.
Saturdays outing was a preliminary visit to see the layout of the site, take some pictures, and have a stroll round to get a feel for the place. I was very impressed - there is a neat little car park and plenty of well kept paths to lead you around the site. The noon column is close to the car park and, of the 3 I've seen so far, this is my favourite - there is something very pleasing in the shape and look of it that I just love. The site is centred around a hill and has a mix of grassland, which was sporting quite a variety of fungi on Saturday plus areas of young trees and a lovely mature copse on the top of the summit. The area within the copse has interesting dips and rocks which we guessed were the signs of possible quarrying? The name Billa Barra is thought to indicate that there was once a barrow (or burial ground) there. We loved it - I'll be going back to plan and write up a short stroll around the site to share with readers of Ashby Life and What's Around in months to come. Meanwhile if anyone fancies a longer walk, Roots Community Singers did one which is now available as a download from their website.
On Sunday we went in search of a yurt. If you haven't come across yurts before then the best way I can describe them is as a sort of huge, and very attractive, tent, but much more luxurious! They have become quite popular for 'glamping'.
My partner Mark actually lived in a yurt for a period and I was keen to see one 'in the flesh (or canvas!)'. I knew that the Shuttlewood-Clarke Foundation had one within their woodland at Ulverscroft Manor so we headed back out towards Markfield. Sadly a lot of the site was closed and dogs weren't allowed on the woodland paths but I did manage a quick walk around part of the Yew Trail and found the yurt. It was covered over (for the winter I'm guessing) but a bit of pegged up cover allowed a view through the window into the interior - very tardis like, it looked much bigger on the inside than from the outside! Certainly a lovely space.
Summary - exploring is good! Two new places discovered, and loving the winter sunshine.
I just can't resist a footpath sign. The lure of that little arrow just says 'explore me' and sooner or later I just have to find out where it goes. Happily the National Forest is just full of paths. Public footpaths, permissive paths, tracks, trails and long distance paths - we've got the lot!