Winter woodland walks
Aber Falls, Abergwyngregyn
As the name suggests, Aber Falls centres on a waterfall. Its proper name is Rhaeadr Fawr, which means 'big waterfall'. The waterfall hurtles from the Carneddau mountains before plunging into this wooded river valley. Varying from season to season, it's a dog-friendly woodland walk North Wales locals (and visitors) can enjoy again and again.
It's particularly spectacular in the cold winter. Snow blankets the landscape, overwintering dippers and grey wagtail flit between trees and the falls freeze into solid, sparkling ice formations. It's as though time stands still, with the water poised to defrost and descend.
The main walking trail (yellow) is waymarked, starting from the lower car park. It's a gradual 100m climb from the valley bottom through woodland and grassland to the waterfall, then back. The path is well-maintained and fairly easy to walk on, but take extra care in icy or wet conditions.
For those with pushchairs and power chairs, there's an easier route; look out for signs at the start. The gates along paths can be opened fully with a RADAR key. There is parking for Blue Badge holders in the lower and upper car parks and accessible toilets in the upper car park.
Distance 2¼ miles (total, there and back)
Time to complete 1½ hours
Terrain Compacted stones and loose gravel
Springtime woodland walks
Wentwood Forest, Newport
The sprawling Wentwood Forest has trails that take you around one of the largest blocks of ancient woodland in Wales. It's home to over 70 species of birds, 23 species of butterfly and enormous wood ant nests (sometimes up to four feet high).
In spring, it's one of the best woodland walks South Wales has to offer; it's simply dominated by blankets of bluebells and other wildflowers in bloom, making it one of the must-see bluebell trails across Wales.
At each of the two car parks (Foresters' Oaks/waypoint 25 or Cadira Beeches/waypoint 1), you'll see a route map. (A pdf version of the map can be found on the Monmouthshire Council website). Choose your walk's direction and level of difficulty, then follow the waymarkers accordingly. The paths are well-maintained and offer easy, medium and hard options. Dogs are welcome but best kept on lead to protect the wildlife.
There are picnic benches at both car parks. The Foresters' Oaks picnic area overlooks the Bristol Channel.
Distance Many options, from short to long
Time to complete Depends on waymarkers followed. From Foresters' Oaks car park to the Cadira Beeches (waymarkers 1-7, 27.5-25) takes about 15 minutes
Terrain Well-maintained paths with some undulation and loose ground
Fforest Fawr, Tongwynlais
For a springtime walk in the forest near Cardiff, try Fforest Fawr. Situated near Castell Coch, the striking, fairytale-like sibling castle to Cardiff Castle, it feels like a complete escape from the capital city. The mixed woodland’s trails traverse carpets of bright bluebells, wood anemones and heady wild garlic.
There are multiple waymarked walking trails from the car park, and the entire woodland is dog friendly. The Three Bears Cave Walk (1.5 miles) offers views of the Three Bears Cave mine remains - otherwise known as the Three Arches. Alternatively, the Sculpture Discovery Trail (1.3 miles) is a family-friendly walk connecting impressive wood sculptures, leading to a panoramic viewpoint of the valley and surrounding hills.
For post-walk refreshments, swing by Forest Stove and Fires tearooms, Tongwynlais. You could extend your walk along the Taff Trail, which runs to Cardiff in one direction and Brecon in the other, or see wildflowers in the neighbouring Fforestganol Nature Reserve.
When planning your walk, take care to research the right Fforest Fawr. There are two! The other is the Fforest Fawr UNESCO Geopark area of Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park. Rather than being a woodland, it's a huge area recognised for its geologically significant landscapes. Both make for a great day out.
Distance Three Bears Cave: 1.5 miles / Sculpture Discovery: 1.3 miles
Time to complete 1-1¼ hours
Terrain Firm, well-maintained paths
Summer woodland walks
Hafren Forest, Llanidloes
Named after the Welsh for the River Severn (Afon Hafren), Hafren Forest spans 40 square kilometres of upland near the river's source. Many of its routes skirt the river.
There are numerous waymarked trails from the car park, particularly long ones (it's the start of The Wye Valley Walk (136 miles) and the Severn Way (210 miles)). That said, two of the easiest provide rewarding summer waterfall scenes. Look out for song thrushes, chaffinches, ospreys, buzzards, red kites and jays in the trees and frogs, newts and toads in the river. Dogs are welcome on all trails.
The Cascades Walk (0.5 miles) starts with a sloping path to a boardwalk along the riverbank. It goes to a raised platform for views of the cascading waters, before returning on a wide forest path. It was designed in partnership with local disability organisations, so it's well-suited to buggies and wheelchairs. The car park has accessible toilets and Blue Badge parking.
For a slightly tougher trail, try the Severn-Break-its-Neck Trail (1¾ miles). It too takes you along the river, then leads to a boardwalk through a wildflower meadow. Then, it's up a path to the waterfall, a steep ascent to the footbridge over the roaring fall, then a short, steep descent to the forest road back to the car park.
Distance Cascades: 0.5 miles / Severn-Break-its-Neck: 1¾ miles
Time to complete 30 mins / 1 hour
Terrain Easy paths / moderately tricky, steep and slippery
Cleddau Woodlands, Haverfordwest
The Cleddau Estuary, which winds from Haverfordwest to Milford Haven, is known as 'Pembrokeshire's Hidden Waterway'. It has some of the best lesser-known woodland walks Pembrokeshire has to offer. Two ancient woodlands along the estuary, Lawrenny and Little Milford, sit on opposite sides of the river. Together, they make up Cleddau Woodlands. Dogs are welcome throughout, under close control.
For a casual stroll that gets you close to the trees and estuary, there's Pembrokeshire Coast National Park's Little Milford Wood walk (0.7 miles). It takes you on a circular route from the car park along tree-lined footpaths through Little Milford woods. It's a gentle walk with two stiles and broadleaf trees that provide ample shade from the summer sun.
Use it to explore deeper into the woods; there are many pathways to choose from, including options to join the riverside footpath heading towards Haverfordwest. You might spot one of the egrets, wigeons, ospreys or grey herons that frequent the waterway in summer.
Alternatively, start further along the estuary for National Trust's Lawrenny Circular walk (3 miles). It takes you through the steep-sided valley woodland, overlooking Daugleddau River, past salt marsh and mudflats, the Garron Pill tidal creeks and Cresswell River. Check the tides before heading out. If you need refreshments, there's the Quayside Lawrenny Tearoom (known for its afternoon teas) near the start.
Distance Little Milford: 0.7 miles / Lawrenny: 3 miles
Time to complete 30 mins / 1 ¾ hours
Terrain Woodland paths (sometimes muddy), stiles / varied, muddy and boggy paths
Autumn woodland walks
Newborough Forest, Anglesey
Newborough Forest, near Ynys Llanddwyn, is the result of the extensive pine tree planting in the mid-1900s. They were used for timber and secured the shifting sand dunes of Newborough Warren, one of the largest dune systems in Britain. Now, it's a haven to wildlife - including rare red squirrels.
National Resources Wales have a helpful guide, with 12 trails of varying difficulty and length There are accessible toilets in the beach car park and free parking spaces for Blue Badge holders. Dogs are allowed on the forest trails all year round. At Ynys Llanddwyn, dogs are only allowed on the public right of way and must be on a short lead. Dogs are not allowed on the part of the beach nearest the Island from 1 May to 30 September.
The Red Squirrel Trail (1.5 miles) from Llyn Parc Mawr meanders through the trees, where leaves form an autumnal tapestry of red, orange, gold and brown and the red squirrels make their homes. Information panels along the route tell you about the red squirrels.
Newborough Forest is one of few places in the UK where these playful creatures thrive. They're emblematic of Anglesey's wildlife conservation efforts. Watch them scurry around storing nuts in preparation for the winter.
The Saint, Sand and Sea Trail (5 miles) from the beach car park is a double whammy route; it takes you around Newborough Forest then leads along Llanddwyn Beach to Ynys Llanddwyn (Llanddwyn Island) lighthouse and back. This island is steeped in history, being associated with Wales' patron saint of lovers, St Dwynwen. It has great views over Eryri (Snowdonia) and the Irish Sea. Check tide times before you head out, as the island can get cut off.
Distance Red Squirrel: 1.5 miles / Saint, Sand and Sea: 5 miles
Time to complete 1 hour / 3 hours
Terrain Steady forest paths / Forest paths, sand and loose stones