|Location||Wyre Forest National Nature Reserve|
|County||Shropshire & Worcestershire|
|Total length||4.65 miles (7.5 km)|
|Maintained by||Natural England|
Start at the Dry Mill Lane car park. You will see a tarmac path that indicates the start of the trail.
In this distance is the first accommodation bridge, which carried a forest track.
You will then walk through a cutting, which is richly lined with oak trees.
Further on, a bench with carved artwork depicts the former railway.
Small railway relics start to appear such as this post foundation.
You will then arrive at the second accommodation bridge that carries the lane to Lodgehill Farm.
Continue along the path until you reach a crossroad, carry on straight ahead.
Can you spot the old hinge posts that once supported crossing gates?
At the T-junction take a right. The railway would have continued through the clearing in the trees.
You have now left the former railway trackbed. The paths will now become more uneven and muddier in the wetter months. Follow the path over the first bridge that crosses the Dowles Brook. As you walk along the brook, you will see signs that this forest is still very much a managed resource.
At the next T-junction, turn right.
You will then cross the second bridge over the Dowles Brook. Follow the path along the brook until you reach a fork. Take the left path.
You will then arrive at another brook, which can only be crossed via a ford, so wellies or waterproof hiking boots are essential otherwise expect wet feet.
Cross the third bridge over the Dowles Brook and continue up the path to the next T-junction. Turn right.
Notice the white building on the right. It was the miller’s cottage for Cooper’s Mill, which existed closer to the brook on the right, but was demolished in 1967. It was one of six mills that once lined the Dowles Brook.
You will then arrive at the final fork, take the right path.
Continue along the path along the Dowles Brook until you reach Knowles Mill. This is the last surviving recognisable corn mill in the Wyre Forest. Many similar buildings across the region have been demolished or converted to other uses. It’s well worth a visit and the mill is free to enter.
Once you have finished enjoying Knowles Mill, head pack onto the path and continue. You will wind along the brook and eventually the path will take you back to the car park. Before you finish, notice the abutments. They are the remains of a bridge that carried the railway eastwards towards the River Severn.
How long does it take to walk the trail?
It will take you roughly 2 hours 15 minutes to walk the trail and see Knowles Mill. This is how long it took us when the path along the brook was very muddy so you may end up completing the trail in a shorter amount of time during the warmer months.
Can you cycle the trail?
Yes you can; however, the track along the Dowles Brook after you have left the railway was extremely muddy when we visited in January. Inexperienced mountain cyclists may need to find an alternative route round, which will add more time onto your trip.
What is the best spot for a picnic?
The Wyre Forest is an area of outstanding natural beauty. There are plenty of spots along the trail for a picnic; however, the length of the walk may require tea and sandwiches rather than carrying a full spread.
What wildlife does the trail offer?
The former railway line also functions as the Wyre Forest Butterfly Trail. The forest contains almost half of the total number of moths and butterflies found in England. Some of the most spectacular are the fritillary family of butterflies of which three species still exit in the Wyre Forest. Nationally and regionally, this group of butterflies are in serious decline and the Wyre Forest is a very important stronghold. There are six information boards along the trail that detail more information about the butterflies and their ecology.
The Dowles Brook is also home to bats, golden ringed and club tailed dragonflies, kingfishers and dippers.
How do I get to the trail?
The walk starts in a remote car park in the Wyre Forest; therefore, travelling by car is your only option. The car park is free and small so expect it to fill quickly on weekends and bank holidays.