While London provides many opportunities for children, when it comes to outdoor adventures, it can leave you wanting. The city sprawls in all directions, making it difficult to get out into nature. Fortunately, you can find forests both in London and the surrounding area, making it easy to go out and find places to hike with children. Here are the top 10 forests to discover in London where children can have fun.
1. Epping Forest
You can find Epping Forest just to the north of London in the direction of Epping. Epping Forest is one of the most extensive forests in the London area and home to dozens of species of trees, many of the deciduous variety.
The forest covers more than 1,700 acres and has plenty of paths running through it as well as lakes and rivers with myriad bridges. There is a wealth of beautiful scenery that kids can enjoy as well as lots of paths for hiking around.
Address: Loughton IG10 4RW
2. Highgate Wood
Highgate Wood is located between Highgate and East Finchley. The wood provides some much-needed respite from the endless streets and road of north London.
Highgate Wood is an ancient natural woodland that has remained undisturbed and undeveloped for centuries. Children can get a sense of what it must have been like in the past to travel through the forest with all the sights, ancient trees, and unusual wildlife. Highgate Wood is a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and experience life at a slower pace, making it one of our favourite London Forests with Children.
3. Queen’s Wood
Queen’s Wood is believed to be a surviving segment of the ancient forest that used to cover the whole of Britain before the advent of agriculture. The woodland survives to this day, relatively untouched, despite the development of the rest of the city of London around Muswell Hill.
Kids will love Queen’s wood because of its natural paths and unique feel. It’s a genuine escape from the dullness of London and helps to bring a little bit of nature into their lives, without having to travel a long distance out of the city.
Address: London N10 3LD
4. Petts Wood and Hawkwood
Petts Wood is a little further out than some of the woods on this list, but it’s not too far from the centre of the city – Zone 4 if you were wondering.
This green area has a plethora of bridleways and footpaths which crisscross it. There are maps of where you are at regular intervals, so it’s not too hard to construct a hiking route for you and the kids. Just remember though, horses and mountain bikes can use the bridleways so you might want to stick to the footpaths where possible.
Address: Orpington, Chislehurst BR5 1NZ
5. Sydenham Hill Wood
Sydenham Hill Wood is the only woodland on this list south of the river Thames. You can find it in Southwark near to Dulwich Park.
Sydenham Hill Wood’s claim to fame is that it is the oldest surviving remnant of the ancient forest that covered Middlesex and Kent in the middle ages and earlier. The woodland offer kids all sorts of things to make their hiking adventures more exciting, including follies, ponds, gardens, an old railway, and a Victorian mansion. A great forest to discover in South London with your children.
6. Ashdown Forest
Ashdown Forest is one of the largest free public spaces in the South of England, spanning 6500 acres. It is famous is being the inspiration for Hundred Acre Wood from Winnie the Pooh. Try to find Pooh Sticks Bridge or Pooh Corner with your kids, as you admire spectacular views over the Sussex countryside. For more inspiring literary locations to visit with your children, check out our World Book Day 2020 post.
7. The New Forest
Famous for its wild ponies, idyllic villages and fantastic local food, the New Forest is a fantastic place to escape London for the day. In fact it’s one of our favourite holiday locations ever, choc full of gastro-pubs, campsites and lovely hotels. So if you love it as much as us and want to make a weekend of it, have a look at our pages on kids activities in the New Forest and Family Friendly Accommodation in the New Forest.
8. Ruislip Woods
The protected woodland reserve covers 726 acres in North West London, providing ample space for families to get in touch with nature. There’s a network of walking and cycling paths to follow, and it’s right next to Ruislip Lido where there are fantastic play areas, an artificial beach and a little pleasure railway looping the lake. Definitely one of our favourite London forests with children.
9. Chilterns Woodland
Part of the Chiltern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, woodland in the Chilterns is full of postcard perfect scenery. Teeming with wildlife, a walk in these ancient forests is sure to encourage your children’s inner Attenborough. See if you can spot Bluebells and Red Kites in Spring, and Muntjac deer in Autumn. The Chilterns are easy to access by train from London, with 4 railway stations and regular services.
10. The South Downs
The South Downs has more woodland than any other National Park in England or Wales, and is within an hour’s drive of London. This diverse landscape covers ancient woodland, Saxon burial mounds, river valleys and dramatic coastline. So there’s more than enough to keep your family occupied for a day or a week. Check out the South Downs Miles without Stiles walking routes, suitable for families with pushchairs or those with limited mobility.
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