Woodland walks in Hertfordshire: 8 perfect winter trails
- Credit: Archant
Be it under the ancient oaks of Broxbourne Woods or alongside the gentle deer of Ashridge Estate, Hertfordshire is a fantastic place to de-stress with a woodland walk this autumn and winter. We count down our 8 top choices to try
1. Heartwood Forest, St. Albans
Located just north of St. Albans, the whimsically-named Heartwood Forest is a beautiful patch of woodland consisting of over half a million trees. With rambling woodland, quaint wildlife and meadow patches, there’s more than enough to satisfy those seeking a return to nature. This historical forest offers leisurely walks perfect for the entire family, with three gentle walks being recommended by the Woodland Trust. The most popular, the ‘Wildlife Wander’ walk is a two and a half mile journey that takes you past the ancient oaks, through the newly sprouting forest and through wild flower meadows, offering great visual variety.
Car parking, public toilets and various pubs are conveniently located nearby
2. Broxbourne Woods, near Broxbourne
Situated just east of the sprawling Lee Valley Regional Park, Broxbourne Woods is a perfect area for a spot of wintertime rambling, proving to be a popular area for casual walkers and experienced hikers alike. There are four clearly-marked trails ranging from a short and leisurely one kilometre stroll to a challenging 17.5km. Be sure to check out the Broxbourne sculpture trail; a route located on the one kilometre walk that features an array of oak sculptures that document the lengthy history and Roman era origins of the forest.
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Several car parks can be found around the woodland, with the most central opposite Ettridge Farm, a short walk from the sculpture trail
3. Gobions Wood, Brookmans Park
Housing the remains of the 18th century pleasure gardens of what was Gubbins House before it’s removal in the early 1800’s, Gobions Wood is also known for its expansive collection of fungi, of which 558 species can be found scattered around the reserve during the autumn and winter months. With its many lagoons, ponds and winter streams, this mile and a half long walk is ideal for those who love nothing better than to wrap up warm and explore some of the rich wildlife and wild aesthetics on offer in Herts’ unspoiled woodlands. Be sure to spot the towering elm trees found here, a rare sight considering most of their kind fell to the Dutch elm disease outbreak of the 1970’s.
4. Hitch Wood, near Stevenage
Located several miles west of Stevenage, Hitch Wood is a beautiful collection of diverse fauna and foliage. With its flat, even ground and easily navigable walking routes, these woods are perfect for a leisurely afternoon stroll with the family and pooch. The waymarked bluebell walk is a perfect introduction to the forest regardless of the time of the year, with numerous benches available for you and the family to relax and admire the sprawling sheets of greenery to be discovered here.
Onsite parking can be found on the B651, just south of the picturesque town of Hitchin, which is a perfect place to cap the day off with a drink
Nestled in the beautiful and sprawling Chiltern Hills, the grand Ashridge Estate is home to a stunning area of forestry with various walks to be found. Perhaps the most intriguing feature of this location is the rich and varied wildlife; light-footed visitors on a festive walk might stumble upon groups of majestic fallow deer or red robins. Many events are held during the holiday period, ranging from wreath making workshops to decorated Christmassy trails, making this an ideal day out for the little ones.
Toilets and National Trust café and visitor centre can be found onsite too. Be sure to check the Ashridge Estate website for events dates, times and prices
6. Sherrardspark Wood, Hertford Heath
Located just on the outskirts of Welwyn Garden City, Sherrardspark Wood offers a therapeutic respite from the bustle of modern life. With its easy terrain and dense collection of oak and hornbeam trees, this is a great location for a family outing to absorb the autumnal hues and enjoy the tranquillity of nature without traveling too far into the wild. The site is also a registered Site of Special Scientific Interest; ideal for little ones with an interest in science and woodland biology.
Parking can be found on Rectory Road, situated in the central area of the woodland
7. Balls Wood, Hertford
For those seeking a more untamed forest walking experience, Balls Wood may be the best option for you. With three signposted walks available, ranging from a relaxed one mile stroll to an extended hike that trails the perimeter of the woodland, Balls Wood is great to explore regardless of one’s experience. Keen eyed walkers may spot one of the great spotted woodpeckers or sparrowhawks that make Balls Wood their home. Be sure to check out the old hornbeams that were once used to mark boundaries between properties.
Due to the more rural location and ambience of the woodland, roadside parking can be found on the nearby Roundings Road
8. Oxhey Woods, South Oxhey
One of the oldest areas of woodland on the list, Oxhey Woods has been populated with trees since the end of the last ice age, some 11,000 years! The woods are home to a number of routed walking paths ranging in difficulty, including a gentle one kilometre trail that starts and ends in the designated car park – perfect for small children. Be sure to spot some of the carved attractions here, including the musical ‘xylofence’ and carved archway that warmly welcomes you to these historic woods.