113.37 ha (280.14 acres)

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Map reference:

Explorer 174
OS Landranger 177

This ancient woodland is home to a wealth of wildlife and plant species, and was once a royal hunting forest, providing venison for the king’s table. Adjoining Hainault Forest Country Park, this wood is just a stone’s throw from London.


  • Parking at site
  • Public access
  • Autumn colour
  • Waymarked walk
  • Grassland
  • Broadleaved woodland

How to get to Hainault Forest

Hainault Forest is near Romford in Essex, 12.8km (8 miles) inside the M25 and 6.4km (4 miles) from the M11. It consists of 113 hectares (280 acres) of mainly ancient woodland pasture which is owned by Essex County Council and leased to us; and 54 hectares (134 acres) of arable land (known as Havering Park Farm) which we purchased in 2006.

Hainault Forest, together with the land owned by the London Borough of Redbridge, makes up the larger whole known as Hainault Forest Country Park. It is in an urban environment with residential areas adjoining the site to the west and a municipal golf course to the east and south.

From Chigwell, head north-east towards High Road/A113. Turn right onto High Road and at the roundabout take the first exit on to Vicarage Lane. Turn left to stay on Vicarage Lane. Then, turn left onto Lambourne Road/B173.

The main car park is located on Lambourne Road, opposite Chigwell Row Primary School. It is only 3.5 miles from Junction 5 of the M11.

The nearest train station is in Romford, around 10.4km (6.5 miles) from Hainault Forest. The nearest tube station is Grange Hill, 3.3km (2 miles) away.

Visit National Rail for more information.

The nearest bus stop is The Maypole, approximately 1.6km (1 mile) from the wood.

Visit Traveline for more information.

Facilities and access

The site has 10 pedestrian entrances (kissing gates and squeeze gaps) and four permissive bridleway entrances. In the section managed by us, there are three surfaced, multi-user paths extending to 7.2km (4.5 miles), with several circular, surfaced networks of varying lengths.

Surfaced paths are either flat or gently sloping. Puddles can form on the stone paths in wet weather and the unsurfaced paths can become very muddy so it’s advisable to wear sturdy footwear.

Cyclists and horse riders are asked to keep to the surfaced paths.

There are two fee-paying car parks owned by the London Borough of Redbridge on Fox Burrow Road (off the main Romford Road), as well as two free Woodland Trust car parks along Manor Road on the northern edge of the site. All car parks are open during daylight hours only.

There are toilets with disabled facilities in the Redbridge section of Hainault Forest Country Park.

Wildlife and habitats


With an incredible 158 bird species recorded, Hainault Forest is a birdwatcher’s dream. As you wander among the stately oaks and hornbeams, watch out for the colourful little firecrest with a flash of orange on its head, and the yellow-throated wood warbler.

Visit in early summer, and you may be lucky enough to hear the trill of the nightingale or the gentle purring sound of the rare turtle dove. Summer is also a good time to spot butterflies as they flutter over the sunny grasslands and patches of heath.

Look out for:

Trees, plants and fungi

Discover something new every season at Hainault Forest. Enjoy the canopy of oak and hornbeam and bluebell displays in spring. Visit in autumn to see the woods burst into colour and keep an eye out for some of the colourful fungi including fly agaric, jade-green elf cups and angel’s bonnets.

Look out for:


Habitats at Hainault Forest include ancient woodland pasture, native broadleaf woodland, mature scrub and open grassland, heathland and former arable fields. Wetland habitats include streams, drainage ditches and woodland ponds.


About Hainault Forest

Hainault Forest is one of the few remaining sections of the former Forest of Essex, which had its origins in the forest that covered much of Britain after the ice age.

From the 11th century it formed part of the royal hunting forests and is thought to have been declared a specially protected forest by Henry I sometime in the 1130s.

In 1851, an Act of Parliament allowed around 100,000 trees to be cut down and the land turned over to agriculture to help feed the growing population of London. After public pressure to retain some of the forest, headed by the Liberal politician and conservationist Edward North Buxton, part of the area was acquired for the nation in 1903 by Essex and London councils and it was designated a Country Park in 1906.


Since 1986, the site has been jointly owned by Essex County Council and the London Borough of Redbridge. In 1998, the Woodland Trust took a 50-year lease from Essex County Council on 113 hectares (280 acres) of the woodland and manage it on the council’s behalf as Hainault Forest. The remaining 100 hectares (240 acres) are owned and managed by the London Borough of Redbridge, and the two sites together are known as Hainault Forest Country Park.

In 2006, we purchased 54 hectares (134 acres) of previously arable land, adjacent to and within Hainault Forest.

Things to do at Hainault Forest

Monster trail

Brave visitors can venture on an exciting monster trail, exploring a section of the wood dotted with sculptures of all things spooky and scary. Keep an eye out for frightening trees with faces, monsters creeping from the forest floor, terrifying trolls and even the grim reaper.

Hainault Forest Country Park

With a fishing lake, petting zoo, guided walks and café all adjoining the wood, a trip to Hainault Forest goes hand-in-hand with a visit to the country park. Kids will love exploring the park.

Volunteering opportunities 

We are working in partnership with the London Borough of Redbridge who offer volunteering opportunities and events


Hainault Forest Management Plan

PDF  (166 KB)