Whinlatter Forest is England's only mountain forest standing proudly within the Lake District National Park. They approached us to complete the design of an exciting new flagship trail...
The Wow Trail, opened in 2023, is a 4.5-mile accessible woodland walk to engage new and existing visitors with the wonders of Whinlatter, encompassing its fascinating history, unique wildlife, the vital work of Forestry England, moments for mindfulness and views to take your breath away.
We worked closely with Damon Mahoney who had planned the initial route stops, and the Forestry England team to review current wayfinding in the forest and plan out what was needed on the new route and at low-tech and sensory rich discovery points such as the wildlife hide and viewpoints. Balancing the need information and enjoyment but being mindful not to put too many interventions into the forest, the aim was to encourage people to be in the moment and boost their wellbeing by experiencing the forest.
Leaving the main tracks, you enter a fully accessible winding path through the deep forest allowing visitors to catch a glimpse of some of Whinlatter’s wildlife up close. We designed a series of archway structures to lead you into the woodlands and encourage the feeling of entering a new world before visitors get to the wildlife hide and forest bathing area where you are gently encouraged to listen, watch and breathe in the forest.
The wildlife hide, aimed at family audiences, became an immersive and interactive space which brought the outside in. The hide is manned and visitors are encouraged to use the binoculars. There is an updatable blackboard for the latest spottings, and a shelf to show finds from the forest too. We incorporated a small storage area for volunteer resources and finished the space with lifesize birds of prey hanging from the ceiling.
The spectacular viewpoint is the real wow of the trail. We knew we needed the view across Bassenthwaite, Helvellyn and Skiddaw to take centre stage and so we created a simple custom sweeping panel structure to interpret the view, with flexibility to change the panels seasonally (and the benefit of showing people what is there if they happen to visit during a white out!) We worked with a local photographer to capture the breathtaking landscape and highlighted what visitors can see, with stories of the area interwoven.
Following the launch, social media has been awash with people enjoying the trail and sharing their wow moments. Have a look for yourself on Instagram with #WowTrail and #Whinlatter
With thanks to Jonny Winters, Forestry England for use of the photos.