Seeking out the guardians of Britain’s ancient forests is a magical experience. Here’s where to find them, starting in Wiltshire
I walk along a deer path barely visible between the bracken. The late-morning sunshine is dappled, leaf-filtered. “There!” says Claire.
She is my companion for the day. We are tree hunters, seeking out aged oaks in this Eden of ancient woodland. She has just spotted one and leads the way through the fronds. We are in the wild expanses of Wiltshire’s Savernake Forest, near Marlborough, surrounded by the North Wessex Downs. A few miles away are the prehistoric wonders of Avebury and Silbury Hill – but our interest lies in the woods.
I have travelled from my home in north Essex to meet some of Britain’s oldest inhabitants. This is a new forest to me, a vast area covering some 1,800 hectares (4,500 acres). Though such treescapes once covered much of the land, now only 2.4% of Britain is ancient woodland.