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.
Credit: Katherine Jaiteh / WTML
1. 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.
2. 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 deer 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.
Credit: Sylwia Domaradzka / Alamy Stock Photo
3. Ruffet and Big Wood
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.
4. 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.
Credit: A.P.S. (UK) / Alamy Stock Photo
5. 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.
6. 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.
Credit: Charlie Mellor / WTML