forest walk cycle drive
forest walk cycle drive

The best woods and forests for a day trip near London

London may be a National Park City, but if you’re longing to explore something a little wilder than well-tended fields crowded with picnickers, there are a surprising number of woods and forests within easy reach of the capital.

It’s said “forest bathing” – spending time relaxing and walking in the woods - is good for our mental and emotional wellbeing. Whether you’re planning a day trip by car, bike or on foot, check out these beautiful woods and forests near London.

 

Walkable

These woodlands are within easy reach of parts of London on foot – just make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes!

Highgate Wood

forests walkable in London

Highgate Wood

A beautiful ancient woodland with a circular path winding through the trees, there’s also a large open cricket field in the middle which is a popular sunspot. Although the café, toilets and playgrounds are closed at the moment, the Wood is a haven for wildlife, with over 70 bird species recorded!

Barnsbury Wood Nature Reserve

forest walks london

Barnsbury Wood Nature Reserve

Boasting the title of London’s smallest local nature reserve, this tiny hidden gem is teeming with life. Although it’s only open for a few hours per week (Tuesdays 2-4pm throughout the year and 2-4pm on Saturdays July-September), it’s well worth a visit to this enchanting space.

Cyclable

If you’re ready for an active day trip in nature, it’s time to get on your bike! Head to any of these stunning woodlands which are within cycling distance of London.

 

 

Epping Forest

Forests cycling distance from London

Epping Forest

Epping Forest is enormous. Spanning 2,400 hectares from Manor Park all the way out beyond Epping, there’s no way to explore the entirety of this forest in a single day. You can however make a beeline for a certain area depending on what you’re looking for; ancient woodland, tranquil ponds, formal wooded areas or open grassland. There’s a helpful guide to all of Epping Forest’s areas on the City of London website.

Oak Hill Woods Nature Reserve

Cycling to a forest near london

Oak Hill Woods Nature Reserve

The steeply sloping woodland of Oak Hill Woods date back to the Middle Ages. Running adjacent to Oak Hill Park, it’s in a great location for a day trip. Why not pack a picnic and a blanket to soak up the sun in the park? The cooling shade of the trees is perfect when you’re in need of some respite from the heat of the day.

Sydenham Hill and Dulwich Wood

dulwich woods at sunrise

Sydenham Hill and Dulwich Wood

Home to more than 200 species of trees and plants, Sydenham Hill Wood forms part of the last remaining tract of the Great North Wood that once stretched from Deptford to Selhurst. The ruins of a Victorian folly and the old Nunhead to Crystal Palace railway line are popular (and Instagrammable!) landmarks within the park.

Drivable

Hire a car and escape the heat of the city for any of these secluded woodlands – the ideal change of scenery for a day trip.

Broxbourne Woods

woodland driving distance from london

Broxbourne Woods

One of four woodlands that make up Hertfordshire’s only National Nature Reserve, Broxbourne Woods is more than simply trees and wildlife. Hidden in the heart of the woodland are a variety of artistic carved wooden sculptures – from Roman soldiers to wild boar. If you’ve missed visiting galleries and museums in recent weeks, the Sculpture Trail in Broxbourne Woods is the next best thing.

Heartwood Forest

forests driving distance from london

Heartwood Forest

This is the largest continuous new native forest in England – so new in fact, that it’s still being planted in places! More than 600,000 newly planted trees connect pockets of ancient woodland through a network of paths, with a long-term vision of reforesting 347 hectares of what was once mainly agricultural land. It’s an amazing feat of communities coming together, and within easy reach of London by car. You can download a walking map of the forest from the website.

Ruislip Woods

woodland at sunrise

Ruislip Woods

The largest block of ancient woodland in Greater London, Ruislip Woods is an SSSI (Special Site of Scientific Interest), thanks to its stunning variety of woodland, grassland, ponds, streams and marshland which attracts a wide variety of wildlife. There is cycle trail through part of the woodland, and Ruislip Lido is usually a magnet for swimmers during the summer months thanks to its sandy banks. It’s currently closed to ensure people can maintain social distance, but we’ve got our fingers crossed it might reopen soon.

Day trip essentials

Most shops and cafes are closed, so don’t forget to take these with you!

Antibacterial hand gel
A packed lunch
Bottles of water
Picnic blanket

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