Wonderful wild garlic woods: 2 – Box wood near Minchinhampton

Box wood - wild garlic carpet in wood May 18 C Aistrop
Carpet of wild garlic in Box wood, near Minchinhampton, Stroud. credit – C Aistrop

Box wood is twenty-five acres of glorious woodland covered with a carpet of wild garlic flowers during the mid-two weeks of May. This site differs slightly from the others I’ve written about as there isn’t a circular path through the site – the footpath is one-way leading from Box village down through the wood to the Avening road. The big plus about visiting Box wood, though, is the choice of not one but two fab eating places, one at each end of the wood: the Halfway cafe sitting on the edge of Box village with its views over Minchinhampton Common and incredible cakes, and the Weighbridge Inn at the other end on the Avening road and its delicious speciality, the ‘2 in 1’ pie.

The walk through the wood isn’t long enough to enjoy both, unless you feel really indulgent, as it only takes about three-quarters of an hour to walk from one end to the other. But don’t let me put you off! The wood runs down the valley-side so the path is downhill or uphill depending on which way you want to walk – the Halfway Cafe is at the top of the valley and the Weighbridge Inn is in the bottom of the Avening Valley.

The wood itself appeared on the first Ordance Survey maps produced in 1830 which means it has official ‘ancient woodland’ status.  And it’s not only the wood itself that’s ancient. When you walk along the paths, you could be walking in the footsteps of our ancestors as it’s thought the paths were created in the early 19th century by workers walking to the nearby Longford’s and Holcombe Mills. This unofficial access has been enjoyed by locals for over a century but in 2017, they became the true owners of the wood when they set up the Box Wood Community Trust and, after a fund-raising appeal, gained enough money to buy the wood from its previous owners.

Wild garlic is also called Ramsons and likes to grow in alkaline soils so the limestone soils around Stroud are ideal for it. It also prefers to grow in damp woodlands. Interestingly, whilst walking through the wood once, I met a couple of elderly ladies who said they lived nearby and had been walking in Box wood for many years. They said it had changed from being a bluebell wood to a wild garlic wood, and there is certainly still a patch of bluebells halfway down the path on the right. This was also the story I heard from another couple of ladies walking through Conygre wood near Tetbury (subject of my previous post). Could a changing climate be affecting the make-up of our woodland flora so dramatically?

When to visit: the middle two weeks of May, though flowering does begin earlier in the month.

Location: the wood runs down from Box village near Minchinhampton, Stroud, down to the Avening valley east of Nailsworth on the B4014.  OS Explorer map 168 SO 002859.

Terrain: the wood runs down the valley-side so you can either walk downhill or uphill depending on which end you start! The path itself is the usual woodland path of compacted soil with occasional stones and tree roots buried in it. There is one jump down of a couple of feet where the path meets a minor road and the stone steps aren’t really much use. The footpath leading from the village to the wood is very narrow and accessed through a kissing gate so not sure if all terrain prams could manage this. They probably could navigate the path through the wood if starting at the bottom  and walking uphill through the wood (though there is that point where a minor road is a couple of feet below where the footpath starts again). Unfortunately, this route isn’t suitable for people with mobility problems.

Facilities: as already mentioned, the Halfway Cafe (https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g186291-d731704-r364814182-Halfway_Cafe-Stroud_Cotswolds_England.html) is on the edge of Box village and Minchinhampton common. The Weighbridge Inn (http://www.weighbridgeinn.co.uk/) is in the Avening valley at the other end of the wood. Both serve excellent food and have the usual toilet facilities.

Directions: (going downhill from Box) park in car park on the common near Halfway Cafe (or in cafe car park if you’re going to eat/drink there). Walk along the road away from cafe and turn left into village just after the Box village name sign. Walk past village hall on left and shortly after on the right is a public footpath. Walk down there to reach a small green triangle of grass with minor, village roads either side of it. Walk straight over the grass and roads to pick up another public footpath. This takes you through the driveway of a house (keep to the left) and then through an old, metal kissing gate onto a path running between hedges and gardens. This takes you into the edge of the wood and at the T-juntion of paths, turn right. This runs along the edge of the wood. Keep going ignoring paths off to either side. Eventually, you’ll reach a minor road, cross this to pick up the path on the other side (note – there is a drop of a couple of feet here from path onto the road as the so-called steps aren’t much use). Follow this path and it’ll lead you past the side of a house to a wooden gate. Go through this to walk down the drive of the house. At the bottom, turn right and follow the road over a bridge crossing a couple of streams to reach the Weighbridge Inn on the other side of the B4014.

To walk uphill: from the centre of Nailsworth, take the B4014  Avening road and the Weighbridge Inn is on the right hand side about a mile along the road. Park in the Weighbridge Inn car park (and don’t forget to have at least a drink there) and cross over the road to start the above walk in reverse.

Other sites to visit at this time of year (details on this blog): Amberley woods nr Stroud (garlic), Conygre woods nr Tetbury (garlic), Frampton pools nr Frampton-on-Severn (nightingales singing), Cotswold Water Park (cuckoo, nightingale and other birds).

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