Walkers & Nature

Walkers have access to a large network of trails at Hodgemoor. As well as the 6 kilometres of permissive riding trails and two bridleways, there are also nearly twice as many paths dedicated walking use alone. Thanks to the recent work of the Hodgemoor Riding Association, great lengths of the trails have been surfaced, making the network much less muddy in winter and much more enjoyable for walkers, cyclists and horseriders alike.

Shared Space

Since the Riding Association’s work on maintaining the trails began in 2000, the relationship between horse riders and walkers has improved greatly. Horse riders now rarely stray off their paths, and when they do, the Association does its best to dissuade and censure them. In return, most walkers are very good about keeping their dogs under control when meeting horse riders, but there have been a few incidents recently when riders have fallen off because dogs have chased riders. For everyone’s safety, if you are enjoying the woods, please do keep dogs under control.

For details of access to the car park, please click on Maps above.

Benefits of Membership

It is not obligatory for walkers to join the Association. However, the Association already has a few walker members who feel that their additional support all goes to make Hodgemoor a wonderful facility for walkers, horseriders and cyclists alike.

  • Map of the network of trails in the wood
  • A regular email newsletter with news and ads to which you can contribute
  • Great website hodgemoor.org.uk and Facebook page
  • Helping towards a happy relationship between cyclists, horseriders and walkers
  • Being part of an Association that has won awards

How to Join

You can use the PayPal options or use cheque or cash.

Member type Annual by PayPal 1 or Standing Order 2 One-off by cash, cheque 3 or PayPal
Walkers £5 £10
  1. To qualify for the lower rate the member must take out the automatically-recurring annual PayPal option. You can use PayPal with your bank card.
  2. To pay by bank Standing Order, complete the form (www.hodgemoor.org.uk/downloads) and return it to us.
  3. Please make cheques payable to Hodgemoor Riding Association.

Automatic annual subscription

You can have PayPal remit your subscription every year automatically, the left-hand option; it’s a bit cheaper for you and much simpler for us. Alternatively, you can make a one-off payment and come back to pay it each year. You can pay by credit card through PayPal by clicking the button of your choice.

Pay just for one year

Thank you for paying online, it saves us a lot of administrative effort.

Hodgemoor Nature Notes

If you spot anything of note in Hodgemoor, or you want to recommend a walking route please email us and tell us!

Female muntjac deer, photo by Orangeaurochs from Sandy, Bedfordshire

Muntjac Deer – Muntiacus Reevesi

Hodgemoor has a very healthy population of Muntjac deer and can be regularly seen crossing paths. Please do not let your dogs chase them!

The present-day species are native to South Asia and can be found from Sri Lanka to southern China. Reeves Muntjac has been introduced to England, with wild deer descended from escapees from Woburn Safari Park around 1925. Muntjac have expanded very rapidly, and are now present in most English counties. It is anticipated that Muntjac may soon become the most numerous species of deer in England.

* Size – smallest of all UK deer, adults stand approximately 45cm at the shoulder and have an average weight range of between 10 – 16kg. The males (bucks) are marginally larger than the females (does). * Identification tips – a Muntjac’s small size is the primary factor in identification, and they often appear to be hunched forward when running. During the summer months a Muntjac’s coat is a uniform reddy-brown colour with very pale, often white, hair under the chin, throat, belly and tail. The tail itself is a good identification aid, being noticeably longer than the tails of other British deer. Muntjac bucks have small and unbranched antlers which slope rearwards, ending in a pointed tip. They also have elongated canine teeth which can appear as small tusks protruding downwards from the upper lip. * Diet – most forest foods will be eaten; fresh tree shoots, leaves, nuts, berries, acorns and fungi are all part of a Muntjac’s diet. They will also strip bark from the bottom of trees. The deer typically feed at 3 – 4 hourly intervals, consuming fresh food quickly and then retreating into the undergrowth to chew the cud. * Breeding – Muntjac deer can mate at any time of the year, there is no particular season as there is for the other British deer species. A single kid is produced 7 months after mating happens. Having given birth, the doe is in season again after a very short time and the kid is weaned after 6 – 8 weeks, and is totally independent of the mother by 6 months.

Tawny Owl

We were lucky enough to spot a Tawny Owl chick last year in Hodgemoor. The Tawny Owl or Brown Owl (Strix aluco) is a stocky, medium-sized owl commonly found in woodlands across much of Eurasia. Its under parts are pale with dark streaks, and the upper parts are either brown or grey. The nest is typically in a tree hole where it can protect its eggs and young against potential predators. This owl is non-migratory and highly territorial. Many young birds starve if they cannot find a vacant territory once parental care ceases.

This nocturnal bird of prey hunts mainly rodents, usually by dropping from a perch to seize its prey, which it swallows whole; in more urban areas its diet includes a higher proportion of birds. Vision and hearing adaptations and silent flight aid its night hunting. Although many people believe this owl has exceptional night vision, its retina is no more sensitive than a human’s. Rather, it is its asymmetrically placed ears that are key to its hunting because they give the Tawny Owl excellent directional hearing. Its nocturnal habits and eerie, easily imitated call, have led to a mythical association of the Tawny with bad luck and death.

Common Buzzard or Kite?

Hodgemoor is fortunate to have both Buzzards and Kites and can be seen most days on walks. Both birds soar in wide circles high in the sky. But which are which?

Buzzard: note the rounded tail

The Common Buzzard

… has a “fanned” or rounded tail, is rather compact with broad wings and a short neck, and is slightly smaller than the Red Kite. It can appear almost wholly cream/buff but is mostly brown with an obvious wing pattern looking from beneath. However, plumage varies enormously in Common Buzzards from very pale through to very dark. … flies on raised wings in a shallow ‘V’. … flaps its wings more than the Red Kite, looking steady and purposeful in direct flight where the Red Kite glides more, with the occasional flap. … principally eats small rodents, but also takes birds, reptiles, amphibians, larger insects and earthworms. Prey up to 500g is taken by active predation.

The Red Kite

Red Kite: note the V tail

… is brightly patterned with a V-tail, long wings and makes relaxed, elegant, ‘elastic’ wing beats in direct flight with wings slightly angled / arched … soars with wings bowed and not raised in a ‘V’. Its tail is long and deeply forked when closed and triangular with sharp outer corners, more pronounced in adults when spread. The tail appears pale looking from beneath and is constantly twisting in flight. … eats mainly dead animals that they are able to find (carrion), being too weak-footed to kill any prey much bigger than a small rabbit. They will also feed on chicks, small mammals and invertebrates such as beetles and earthworms.