One of our favourite places, Hicks Lodge shows just how brilliantly a landscape can be transformed. This former open cast mining site now attracts visitors from far and wide. There are around 10 miles of cycle tracks, many of which are open to walkers as well. The hard surfaces make it the ideal place for walking in winter or early spring when you want to stretch your legs without being bogged down in mud!
There is one large lake with an island and bird hide plus several smaller ponds. The area is now home to great crested newts, oystercatchers, skylarks and early purple orchids - a real success story for the Forestry Commission, who manage the site, and the National Forest.
There is an excellent cafe and visitor centre which is very dog friendly. Opposite the cafe is a brilliant play area which makes good use of natural materials and caters for all ages.
The site is split into two areas, separated by the road at Willesley Woodside. Each of the 2 walks in the book explores a different side. The shorter walk is great for families with the option to just do an easy loop that includes the lake and woodland or extend it slightly to include a visit to Moira Furnace. The second walk quickly became one of my favourites - the path to the church at Willesley is an absolute gem that I'd highly recommend walking.