Alice Holt Woodland Park - Bentley
This historic forest is famous for its oak trees and the spectacular Purple Emperor butterfly, which is only found in oak woods. There's an easy-access trail to enable people using wheelchairs and families with young children to enjoy forest visits. And a Forest Centre with shop and bicycle hire is also on site.Alice Holt Woodland Park, near offers the chance to step into a piece of historic countryside and leave behind the modern world. This ancient forest is famous for its oak trees which once supplied timber for building navy ships. Recently, Alice Holt oak has been used to build a replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London. Today the area has been designated a Woodland Park which means that it is managed for the benefit of its visitors, its wildlife, as well as a working forest. There is a Forest Centre with a shop, information point and toilets. This is an ideal place to begin exploring Alice Holt, with well-marked tracks to help you discover the forest's quiet beauty. Using bicycles (which can be hired from the Forest Centre) it is possible to make a wider exploration. There is also an easy-access trail to enable people using wheelchairs, and families with young children to enjoy forest visits. The grassy lawns around the Centre play host to a series of outdoor events all year round. Open-air concerts, live theatre and craft fairs are held here. The lawns are a lovely spot for a picnic too.
Alice Holt is home to a wide variety of bird life attracted by its rich food store. You may hear Greater Spotted Woodpeckers hammering tree bark, or the Green Woodpecker's 'laughing' call. An unusual summer visitor is the Hobby - a small falcon which chases Swifts and Martins, catching them in mid-air. Tiny hunters lurk in the woodland ponds; dragonfly nymphs are voracious predators of other pond life. The fast-flying adult insects are stunningly beautiful - their brightly coloured bodies and shining metallic wings are a common sight all summer.
During Roman times the area was a hive of industry. Important potteries were developed here, trading as far as London. The wealth of natural resources attracted the potters - local clay for the pots, heath land turf for the kilns and forest timber for the fuel. You can see a reconstructed pottery kiln in Goose Green Enclosure. Centuries later, the forest was owned by Aelfsige, Bishop of Winchester and it is thought to be named after him. The old English name of Aelfsige's Holt has now become Alice Holt. The Norman kings turned the area into a Royal hunting forest with strict laws to prevent game poaching. From the Middle Ages onwards, timber was the woodland's most prized resource. Alice Holt's trees were used to build Britain's naval fleets. Hundreds of mature oaks were needed to build a single ship and the forest was periodically stripped of its large trees to supply the naval shipyards dotted along the south coast.
Now Forest Enterprise manages the Alice Holt woodlands to produce timber, encourage wildlife and provide access for visitors. The spectacular Purple Emperor (left) is the symbol of Alice Holt Woodland Park. This large butterfly is only found in oak woods where it flies around the treetops. The sunny rides attract many more butterfly species. Larger creatures take to the air at night. On an evening walk you may see bats out hunting their insect prey around the ponds and rides. Dusk is the best time to see Alice Holt's shy Roe Deer, too. This species of deer was re-introduced to southern England from Germany during the 19th century and is now frequently seen by forest visitors.