Best Forests in London: Exploring the City’s Natural Oasis

London is a bustling city with a lot to offer, but sometimes people need a break from the hustle and bustle. Fortunately, there are plenty of woodlands and forests in and around London that provide the perfect opportunity for a peaceful retreat into nature. These green spaces offer visitors the chance to explore and enjoy the outdoors at their leisure.

To make it easier for visitors to plan their trips, this guide has been split into two sections. The first section covers the best woods and forests that are actually located within London, while the second section features those that are just outside the city but still within easy day-tripping distance. Each section provides practical information on how to get to each spot, as well as a helpful map at the end.

Key Takeaways

  • London offers a variety of woodlands and forests for those looking to escape the city.
  • The guide is split into two sections: woods and forests in London, and those near London.
  • Each section provides practical information and a map to help visitors plan their trips.

Woods and Forests in London

London may be known for its bustling city life, but it also boasts several stunning woods and forests that are perfect for a peaceful stroll or a nature-filled adventure. Here are some of the best woods and forests in London:

Highgate Wood

Highgate Wood is a 28-hectare woodland located between Highgate, Finchley, and Muswell Hill. Originally part of the ancient Forest of Middlesex, Highgate Wood is now a popular spot for a woodland walk in London. The woods feature a wildlife information hut to help identify the nature spotted in the woods. There are also a variety of areas and habitats to keep things interesting. Visitors can enjoy a cup of coffee at the on-site cafe.

Getting There: Highgate Underground Station

Selsdon Wood Nature Reserve

Selsdon Wood Nature Reserve is a 200-acre countryside divided between woodland and open fields. The reserve is located in Croydon and is a wonderful destination in every season. In spring, visitors can enjoy carpets of bluebells and anemones, and in autumn, the London colors come hand in hand with plump blackberries and acorns. The reserve offers two long-distance paths, The Vanguard Way and London Loop, both of which pass through Selsdon Wood. There are also two official shorter routes of 1.6km and 3km respectively, along with plenty of footpaths for visitors to create their own route.

Getting There: East Croydon / South Croydon train stations and bus 433

Queen’s Wood

Next to Highgate Wood, Queen’s Wood is another surviving part of the Forest of Middlesex, located in the area of Muswell Hill. The wood has been in this location since at least AD 1600, filled with Oak and Hornbeam, it’s a habitat for some of the widest variety of wildlife visitors will find in easy reach of the city center. Birdlife includes greater spotted woodpeckers, blue tits, robins, wrens, sparrow hawks, good old London pigeons, and much more.

Getting There: Highgate underground station

Sydenham Hill Wood

Sydenham Hill Wood is the largest remaining section of the Great North Wood, a vast woodland that used to stretch from Deptford in the north all the way down to Selhurst and South Norwood in the south. The wood is one of South London’s prettiest spots, complete with an old Victorian folly nestled amidst the trees and the 18th-century Cox’s Walk – a tree-lined path created by publican Francis Cox in 1742 and widely regarded as one of the nicest forest walks in London.

Getting There: Sydenham Hill or Forest Hill train stations

Oxleas Wood

The ancient woodlands atop Shooter’s Hill are a delightful place to explore during any season. Some parts of the woodland are over 8,000 years old, and it’s blessed with meandering paths darting between the ancient trees. Visitors can also enjoy the gloriously bizarre Severndroog Castle poking up at the top of the woods – a folly transformed into a cafe. Be sure to go upstairs to grab one of the best views of London.

Getting There: Falconwood train station and 20-minute walk

Richmond Park

Richmond Park may not be a forest, but it has over 1,200 ancient trees spread out throughout its confines. The Isabella Plantation doubles up as a large botanical garden filled with blooming azaleas and other colorful plants. Visitors can also spot herds of fallow and red deer roaming freely, making for plenty of nature-spotting opportunities.

Getting There: Richmond Station by train or underground.

Wendover Woods

Wendover Woods is located in Buckinghamshire, a few hours from central London. Visitors can hike through the idyllic woods, and there are plenty of things to do if hiking or exploring forests isn’t totally their thing. The woods offer orienteering sessions, an assault course, picnic spots, and even a Go Ape so visitors can swing through the trees instead of walking it. The paths have recently been upgraded so that people that need a little extra help getting around can enjoy the woodlands. The upgrade comes with some off-road bike paths that are great fun to zip along if visitors are brave enough.

Getting There: Take the train from Marylebone Station to Wendover.

Woods and Forests Near London

London is known for its busy streets and bustling city life, but there are also plenty of opportunities to escape into nature without traveling too far. Here are some of the best woods and forests near London to explore.

Epping Forest

Epping Forest is one of the largest outdoor spaces in the London area, spanning over 2,400 hectares of ancient woodland. It is easily accessible via the Central Line, with stations such as Chigwell, Roding Valley, Buckhurst Hill, Loughton, Debden, Theydon Bois, and Epping providing access to the forest. The forest offers a range of walks, from short jaunts of a mile or two to all-day hikes that showcase the diversity of the forest.

Hainault Forest

Hainault Forest is a beautiful stretch of woodland near London that spans over 336 acres. It is one of the last remaining sections of the ancient Forest of Essex and is home to more than 1,000 bird and animal species. The forest is easily accessible via Hainault Station, Grange Hill Underground Station, or Chadwell Heath Station, followed by a short bus ride.

Banstead Woods

Banstead Woods is a medieval deer park that has been turned into public woodland. The woods span over 93 hectares and are situated on chalk, clay, and gravel formations, providing different habitats for flora and fauna. The woods are a fantastic setting for a woodland walk, with plenty to see even in a relatively short period of time. Kids will love the Narnia Trail, a nature trail set within Banstead Woods and neighbouring Chipstead Downs with famous characters and objects from C.S Lewis’ books.

Ashdown Forest

Ashdown Forest is a pretty forest that stretches over 2,500 hectares of public land. It was the inspiration and setting for A.A Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, and visitors can find plenty of Pooh-related spots dotted across the forest. The heathlands of the Ashdown Forest are a Special Area of Conservation, protecting the diverse range of flora and fauna within. There are hikes and walks aplenty, with both the long-distance Vanguard Way and Wealdway passing through the forest.

Abinger Roughs

Abinger Roughs is a beautiful woodland that is worth the two-hour journey from central London. The trees that make up Abinger Roughs are mostly oaks, birches, and the occasional pine and are said to be over three centuries old. The woodland is also home to a beech tree with a 15 ft girth and is said to have been enjoyed by Charles Darwin in the late 1800s.

King’s Wood

King’s Wood is a one-and-a-half-thousand-acre stretch of trees, meadows, and bluebells. The woodland is home to a variety of birds and wild herds of fallow deer that still roam the woods. In addition to regular walking trails, there are also cycle paths of varying degrees of difficulty, from casual cycling to more full-on mountain bike tracks. King’s Wood is easily accessible via a train from St. Pancras to London Bridge to Ashford station, followed by a short bus ride.

Overall, these woods and forests near London offer a great escape from the city and a chance to explore nature.

Practical Information and Map for Exploring Forests Near London

When exploring the forests near London, it is important to wear practical and waterproof shoes as the terrain can be muddy. Additionally, visitors should check the opening times of the forests they plan to visit, as some areas like Selsdon Wood Nature Reserve and Richmond Park have restricted access after dark. It is recommended to plan ahead and be prepared for any potential restrictions or weather conditions.

Practical Information and Map for Exploring Forests Near London

To make the most of exploring the forests near London, it is recommended to wear practical and waterproof shoes as the trails can be muddy. It is important to check ahead for opening times, as some areas are open 24 hours a day, while others have restricted access after dark. Make sure to plan your visit accordingly to avoid disappointment.