In our Photo Location Guide series we reveal the best shooting spots around the UK. Jeremy Walker reveals why this beautiful pine woodland in Dorset offers some great photographic opportunities
Located just north of Wareham and south of the A35 in Dorset, Wareham Forest consists of acres of pine woodland and open heath criss-crossed by a network of paths. While a few of the paths are part of a designated set of longer routes, most meander through the woods, allowing you to walk or cycle as far as you feel able. You certainly do not have to venture too far from the car to start enjoying good landscape and photo opportunities.
My favourite area is around Woolsbarrow Hillfort, which has the Wareham Forest Way running right past it. There are two parking areas within a 15-minute walk, although there are some really interesting views and vistas on the way. In fact, I rarely reach the fort before I have the camera out.
The Woolsbarrow area is accessed via Sugar Hill, which runs from Wareham in the south to intersect with the A35 in the north.
Another area of the woods to consider is the Gore Heath plantation on the eastern fringes of the forest. Access is from the B3075 and there is an official car park, as well as a few pull-ins.
Much of the terrain is gravel tracks over flat or undulating ground, and there is nothing strenuous to tackle. However, if you do leave the paths, watch your footing, as the long grass can cover old forestry operations and some deep muddy puddles (I speak from experience!).
Wareham Forest can be shot at any time of year as the majority of it is pine, so there is always green on the trees. Summer can be as good as winter because much of the forest is low-lying, meaning that marshy mist tends to form readily. As a result, early morning can be a great time to visit. My preference is for an early winter morning with frost, a veil of mist and the occasional glimpse of deer, all with hardly another soul in sight.
This is very much a landscape location, but you do not need any specialist kit. There is nothing a 24-70mm and a 70-200mm cannot cope with, although if you’re looking to shoot wildlife then you’ll naturally want something with more reach. Conversely, the opportunity for macro and close-up images is limitless.
I would recommend carrying a decent tripod no matter what you are shooting, and as you will never be that far from the car it’s no hardship.
Food and lodging
Sadly, there are no tearooms handy for Wareham Forest, but there is a nearby pub that does very good lunches. The Silent Woman on Bere Road will offer warmth and sustenance, and is just a few minutes away from where you will have parked.
A ten-minute drive will see you in the town of Wareham itself, with all the facilities of a small market town, including hotels and B&Bs. Try The Priory if you want fantastic food and accommodation (at a price) or The Springfield for something a bit more down to earth. There are also plenty of B&Bs at Corfe, and Poole, with its seaside hotels and guest houses, is not far away.
Wareham Forest can be marshy and damp, so wellies or good walking boots are a must. If you go for the wellies option in winter, get the thermal, neoprene-lined versions – your toes will thank you for it.
Coat or jacket
Don’t wear a bright orange or yellow coat in the woods. They might look good in the shop or on the ski slope, but in the woods try to blend in a little. You’ll stand a better chance of seeing some wildlife.
Jeremy Walker is an award-winning photographer specialising in high-quality landscape and location photography around the world, for use by advertising, design and corporate clients. www.jeremywalker.co.uk