11 peaceful places to enjoy the outdoors in Hertfordshire
- Credit: Judith Parry
School is out, the sun is here and Hertfordshire has as wealth of beautiful nature spots to explore. From woods, to parks to wetlands, here are some of the county's nicest spots to relax and unwind in.
Balls Wood near Hertford is nearly 60 hectare nature reserve waiting to be explored. The woodland is a tapestry of varied plant species including ancient woodland flora such as herb-paris, common spotted orchid and old wild service trees. Now that it's summer, look out for beautiful butterflies, birds and wildflowers.
Visit Heartwood Forest, managed by Woodland Trust volunteers, and embrace its abundance of space – 347 hectares to be exact. The site near St Albans is the largest continuous new native forest in the UK and boasts some fantastic walks to help you get back to nature and lost in the moment. Discover the woodland (ancient and new), wildflower meadows and a community orchard.
Lose yourself watching wildlife for an afternoon at Rye Meads. It is a beautiful wetland reserve beside the River Lea and a firm favourite with birdwatchers, walkers and photographers.
Ashridge Estate is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), with its chalk downlands, meadows and ancient woodland. There’s no need to book a parking space but if the car park is full, do come back later and don’t park on the verges.
Another AONB, Tring Park has more than 250 acres to explore. Managed by the Woodland Trust, it boasts sweeping panoramas, open parkland and mixed woodland, providing the perfect opportunity to switch off and get swept away by the beautiful surroundings.
The beautiful Berrygrove Woods is the largest area in a patchwork of woodland and green spaces on the historic Wall Hall Estate. Look out for the bluebells.
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Nestled in the quiet Chess Valley, the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust site offers vast meadows and tranquil woodland, that comes alive with birdsong in the warmer months.In summer the meadow is coloured with white meadowsweet, yellow lady's bedstraw and purple southern marsh, as well as heath spotted orchid.
River Colne, Rickmansworth
Fancy taking a swim on the wild side? The stretch of the River Colne near Rickmansworth feels like a rural escape, and while the water is fairly fast moving, it's shallow. You can also go on a six-mile circular walk around the Rickmansworth Aquadrome, which will take you past the swimming spot. This is a gentle circular walk through a beautiful rural area taking in the River Colne and a wild swim. The nearest station is Rickmansworth, which is walking distance from the river.
Therfield Heath & Hawkins Wood, Therfield
However busy we are, it’s important to take time out to relax and recharge our batteries. Hawkins Wood is a great spot for just that. This 10-hectare nature reserve south of Therfield near Royston is a small but perfectly formed place to get away from it all. Combine a visit with a bracing walk across nearby Therfield Heath Nature Reserve – the views as far as Cambridge are spectacular.
The Chilterns, West Hertfordshire
Hertfordshire boasts so many walking and cycling trails, it is just a case of which one to pick next. Perhaps choose one in The Chilterns, yet another AONB. Rising near Hitchin, paths stretch along the western edge of the county and as far as Oxfordshire. With vast views from it’s hilltops, archaeology and rare wildlife, it is a place you will want to come back to time and time again.
Even though this little gem covers only one hectare, it is dense with lush beauty. While in spring time there is an abundance of bluebells, this time of year, watch out for blue tit and great tit birds.