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The best woodland walks in London

Did you know that almost half of London is green space? Or that the city is home to some eight million trees? From parks and gardens to allotments and nature reserves, the capital is one of the greenest major urban centres in the world.

All that greenery provides plenty of opportunity for a walk. Here is our pick of the best places for a stroll in the city, with a particular focus on woods and trees:

Hainault Forest

Immerse yourself in this stunning ancient woodland. Once a royal hunting ground, the forest is now a peaceful haven for more than 1,000 animal species. Several rare birds have been recorded here, including turtle dove and nightingale. With miles of footpaths to explore, one visit is unlikely to be enough. Why not come back throughout the year and see what the forest has to offer through all four seasons?

Managed by the Woodland Trust, the forest is part of Hainault Forest Country Park, which covers parts of Redbridge, Havering and Essex. You can find out more by visiting our information page for Hainault Forest.

Hainault Forest offers a perfect escape from the noise of the city. (Photo: Joey Emery/WTML)
Hainault Forest offers a perfect escape from the noise of the city. (Photo: Joey Emery/WTML)

The Royal Parks

London’s eight Royal Parks cover 5,000 acres and are home to more than 170,000 trees. The pick of the bunch is Richmond Park, which contains 1,200 ancient trees, as well as herds of red and fallow deer.

Walk through Greenwich Park and you can see Queen Elizabeth’s Oak. This historic tree stood for around 800 years before finally falling in 1991. It was a favoured picnic spot for Queen Elizabeth I and it’s said that her parents - King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn - danced around the oak when they were courting.

Red deer live among the trees of Richmond Park. (Photo: JBLumix/iStock)
Red deer live among the trees of Richmond Park. (Photo: JBLumix/iStock)

Ruffett and Big Woods

Escape the city buzz with a trip to this peaceful wood close to Coulsdon, Sutton. Head to the north side of the wood on a clear day and you’ll be treated to fine views out across London. Keep your eyes peeled and you may see the great spotted woodpeckers that live here. Visit our information page for Ruffett and Big Woods.

Epping Forest

Straddling London’s north-eastern border, Epping Forest is a walker’s dream. The vast site contains ancient woodland, grassland, lakes and lots of wildlife. Look out for the many ancient pollarded trees. The unusual shape of these trees is evidence of how local people made use of the wood for centuries.

Pollarding has given the trees of Epping Forest an unusual shape. (Photo: Bob Gibbons/Alamy)
Pollarding has given the trees of Epping Forest an unusual shape. (Photo: Bob Gibbons/Alamy)

Blackbush & Twenty Acre Shaw Woods

This pair of picturesque woods is a stone’s throw from the village of Cudham in Bromley. A mixture of ancient and young woodland, beautiful bluebells bloom here each spring. The woods are located close to Down House, home of Charles Darwin. It's likely he would have visited as he worked on his theory of evolution. Visit our information page for Blackbush & Twenty Acre Shaw Woods.

Hampstead Heath

One of London’s most popular outdoor destinations. This sprawling park offers woodland, meadows, ponds and wildlife. No visit is complete without viewing the city skyline from Parliament Hill. 

Hampstead Heath offers a fine view across London. (Photo: James Hadley/Alamy)
Hampstead Heath offers a fine view across London. (Photo: James Hadley/Alamy)

What are you waiting for?

Find your nearest wood and go for a walk today.