June is busting out all over, so the saying goes. I reckon whoever said this first was a month late. May is the month when nature springs into life, seemingly all of a sudden after the long, slumbering stretch of winter. Flowers and birdsong flare up all over the place in an explosion of activity: bluebells, orchids, cowslips, red campion, yellow archangel, sweet woodruff and many others add bright colours to the backdrop of fresh green vegetation. Nightingales and cuckoos proclaim their presence – elaborately in the former whereas the latter sticks to two simple notes. Many other migrant birds add their song to the cacophony of the dawn chorus, but only until they find a mate when they stop singing and concentrate on the demanding job of raising youngsters. That’s why the later summer months are deathly quiet compared to the soundtrack of May.
Wild garlic woods are one of the fabulous natural spectacles appearing in May around the Stroud district. The wild garlic grows so densely over the woodland floor that the white, pom-pom flower heads look like a layer of spring snow. The woods which I refer to as Amberley woods, but on the Ordance Survey map appear to have no name at all, are one of the best woods in my opinion for marvelling at this sight. Stretching for approx 1.5 miles, they run along the hillside just south and parallel to the minor road leading from the Bear at Rodborough Inn through Amberley to St Chloe. The views from the path through the beech trees over pastures to the Woodchester Valley add an extra delight. At either end of a walk through this wood is Minchinhampton Common where the grassland is covered with cowslips interspersed with early purple orchids, making a lovely circular walk of contrasting, but equally stunning, floral delights.
When to visit: the garlic pom-poms are usually at their best during the mid two weeks of May. However, today I’d say the flowers were two-thirds out and in two or three days time will be fully out, about a week early. If there’s warm weather this week, they’ll finish flowering very quickly so get there asap!
Location: Amberley to St Chloe, near Stroud. OS Explorer map 168, grid ref.: 847024 to 843019.
How much time to allow: Walking through the wood takes about an hour but it’s a straight line so return the same way or walk on the commons back to start. So allow a couple of hours in total.
Terrain: the path through the wood is generally flat with a few gentle ups and downs. At either end of the wood is a steep-ish climb up to or down from the main road running across Rodborough & Minchinhampton Commons. Because of this, this site wouldn’t suit people with mobility problems. Though once in the wood (especially at the Bear Hill end), someone who needs to walk slowly and carefully with a bit of help, could walk far enough to take in the full garlic show. All terrain buggies/prams could be wheeled along the path, though it does get narrow at times.
Facilities: None, though the Bear at Rodborough is a really nice pub with lovely (and large) pub garden and toilets.
Directions: Park at St Chloe (but very limited parking) or at the Bear of Rodborough Inn if you’re going to have a drink/meal afterwards. There’s a small layby for 3-4 cars on the main road next to the junction with Bear Hill, a few yards away from the Bear of Rodborough. N.B. Walking down Bear Hill must be done with a lot of caution as you need to walk on the road at times and cars drive fast up the hill. Walk down Bear Hill for about half a mile, and then turn left onto a footpath that runs parallel to the boundary wall of a house called The Spinney (next to Rodborough Manor).