A rare forested spot in central Cornwall, Idless Woods is stuffed with larch and beech trees and rushing streams that run right the way through the plot. Managed by the Forestry Commission there are huge fire tracks that transverse the area, popular with cyclists and riders, off piste paths that trail through towering trees, and the remains of a huge Iron Age fort that crowns at the top of the woodland.
In 2011 work began to fell large swathes of the Japanese larch when it became infected with phytophthora ramorum, which is hoped will curb the spread of the disease. And whilst this has left huge patches of scarred landscape it’s still a beautiful place to walk.
In the summer it’s a great respite from busy beaches, many of which ban dogs during the peak season, and in the winter it’s incredibly atmospheric with mist clinging to the tree line and the soft, exuberant smell of pine.
Last week we popped down there to escape the north easterly winds and driving rain of the barren north coast cliffs. We tucked ourselves away in the woodland, protected from most of the rain by the expansive tree canopy, heading first up one of the main fire tracks, past a patch of felled trees – enormous, sad pillars laying like fallen beasts, and then cut down one of the many side tracks.
The size of the larch is magnificent, and whilst they don’t quite compare to the huge Redwoods I was lucky enough to encounter in California earlier this year, they put up a good contest.
Running along the eastern boundary is a stream once employed in the manufacture of gunpowder – the evidence of which can still be seen today. These days it‘s a haven for wildlife and the perfect plunge pool for hot hounds.
For more information, maps and access http://www.forestry.gov.uk