The Smelters' walk - short, circular family friendly walk
If you are a first time visitor to Fineshade Woods, this trail is a great place to start your exploration.
If you are interested in history, you will pass through an area where iron was once smelted in the forest. Starting at the top of the car park, The Smelters' Walk is a route suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs, on level or gently sloping surfaced paths. Two miles long, it is our shortest walk, all on surfaced paths and mainly level, with some very mild slopes in one or two areas.
Archaeological evidence shows iron ore has been smelted on this site for over 3,000 years. This industry was attracted here because of Fineshade’s ample wood-fuel reserves – every 1kg of iron needed a massive one tonne of wood to smelt it. The sheer number of Fineshade’s slag heaps testify to there being large-scale production involving thousands of smeltings over hundreds of years. Bloomery smelting finally ceased on this site in the late 1500s. With the Victorians came the age of steam and with it a shift away from wood as the preferred building material, or as fuel. In its place came coal, bricks, iron and steel. So whilst woodlands’ importance declined, the iron ore under its roots was again brought to prominence.
These days, Fineshade is a managed woodland (woodlands have been managed for over 6,000 years in Britain). It is managed for the benefits that a woodland area brings to people, wildlife and the production of timber. You may see or hear woodpecker drumming as you walk through the woods, and the shy jay is often see bobbing ahead of you, flying from bush to bush as you approach. On the wider tracks the grass verges will show a whole range of plants, from the useful St John’s Wort with its yellow flowers catching the sun, to pink foxgloves, pale pink dog rose, blue speedwell and lemon yellow primrose. Later you may come across woolly thistle, with its wonderfully downy heads and prickly stems, and also the seed heads of teasels which goldfinches love to eat. There is always so much to see, whatever the time of year.