Size:

346.72 ha (856.75 acres)

Grid reference:

TL162114

Map reference:

Explorer 182

OS Landranger 166

Heartwood Forest is an extraordinary and special place that has transformed a vast area of former farmland in London’s greenbelt. Thanks to tens of thousands of volunteers, over half a million trees have been planted and meadows have been sown. Heartwood Forest has become England’s largest area of uninterrupted woodland, and wildlife is now booming here.

Although Heartwood Forest is still young, its special mix of connected habitats – rare ancient woodland, wildflower meadow and new woods – makes it one of our top sites.

Features

  • Parking at site
  • Parking nearby
  • Public access
  • Spring flowers
  • Waymarked walk
  • Grassland
  • Broadleaved woodland

How to get to Heartwood Forest

Heartwood Forest (347 hectares/857.5 acres) is 4.8km (3miles) north of St Albans in Hertfordshire and only 32km (20 miles) from central London. It lies on either side of the B651, between Harpenden, Wheathampstead and Sandridge.

From St Albans, head north-east on the B651 and after 4km you will see a brown tourist sign pointing towards the car park from the main road.

There is a good train service to St Albans station, 4km (2.5 miles) from Heartwood Forest.

Visit National Rail for information.

The nearest bus stop is outside Pound Farm, opposite St Leonard’s Church. Walk through the farmyard and up the bridleway to reach Heartwood Forest.

Visit Traveline for more information.

Facilities and access

Heartwood Forest is close to St Albans, on either side of the B651 between Sandridge and Wheathampstead Village.

At 347 hectares (857.5 acres), there are several entrances to the forest, all linking to either bridleways, public or permissive footpaths. If you’re visiting Heartwood Forest for the first time, use the main car park entrance where you’ll find information boards and a site map.

There is a network of paths in Heartwood Forest including a public footpath and two bridleways. Most of the paths are unsurfaced and can get muddy when wet. There are some moderate gradients leading up from Sandridge village. There is a short surfaced all-access loop from the car park.

The car park surface is tarmac track with stoned parking spaces. An overflow car park is used on an ad hoc basis for events and exceptionally busy days. This is flat but the surface is grassed and can become muddy or waterlogged in wet weather.

There are eight bike stands in front of the visitor welcome and information point.

Download the Heartwood Forest accessibility statement.

The Heartwood Forest car park is located off the B651, which runs from Sandridge to Wheathampstead. There are 55 parking spaces available, five of which are reserved for blue badge holders. These are clearly marked with a blue badge logo.

There are no time restrictions during opening hours on visitor parking here. The car park is open from 8am all year round, but closing times vary depending on the time of year.

Car park opening times

1 January–29 February 8am-5pm
1 March–26 March 8am-6pm
27 March–30 September 8am-8pm
1 October–30 October 8am-7pm
31 October–31 December 8am-5pm

The nearest public toilets are located in Sandridge village hall (AL4 9DD). Disabled facilities are available with a RADAR key.

Wildlife and habitats

Animals

Look up to the skies at Heartwood and you may catch a glimpse of a rare and special bird. Farmland species and birds of prey, in particular, are a common sight, such as skylarks and meadow pipits. The rare great grey shrike has also been spotted here.

Look out for:

Trees, plants and fungi

With a community orchard, an arboretum containing all 60 native tree species, precious ancient woodland and wildflower meadows, Heartwood Forest is rich in plant species.

Spot bluebell, wood anemone and yellow celandine in spring, and admire mighty oak, hornbeam, ash, field maple, hazel, hawthorn and birch trees in all seasons.

Look out for:

Habitats

With pockets of ancient semi-natural woodland, wildflower meadows, a community orchard, open grassland and an arboretum, Heartwood Forest is a wonderfully eclectic mix of habitats.

Heartwood Forest is made up of four woods: Langley Wood, Pismire Spring, Well and Pudler’s Wood and Round Wood.

Explore:

About Heartwood Forest

While Heartwood Forest is a young wood, it has a rich history.

Acquisition

We acquired the 347 hectares (850 acres) of arable farmland on 30 September 2008, almost all of which was being farmed commercially with arable crops.

We started planting with the help of thousands of volunteers and school children. Three-quarters of the site is now covered with 600,000 native trees, all sourced in Britain. There are also areas of open space in the grasslands and wildflower meadows, a community orchard and an arboretum.

Autumn leaf-strewn path, Heartwood Forest

Credit: Judith Parry / WTML

Archaeology

Archaeological investigations at Heartwood Forest revealed features such as depressions (possibly old pits), potential old tracks and internal banks. These, together with significant buried remains, suggest human activity from the prehistoric period onwards.

Trenches also showed evidence of late Iron Age and Romano-British activity.

A path through bluebells at Heartwood Forest

Support us

Your support matters

This wood was secured for the future thanks to your response to an urgent appeal. Discover how you helped us bring another incredible place safely under our wing, and what the future holds for Heartwood Forest.

See what we've achieved

Things to do at Heartwood Forest

Walking

As Heartwood Forest covers such a large expanse with a range of habitats, it is a brilliant place for a long and interesting walk. From wildlife wanders to magical meanders, a walk around Heartwood is well worth it.

Horse riding

Horses are welcome on both public and permissive bridleways that are clearly signed throughout Heartwood Forest. To avoid damage to the ground and plants, please stick to bridleways and avoid waterlogged paths to help prevent erosion or widening.

Horses are not permitted on footpaths, including the permissive paths through the ancient woodland. Please ride with care because bridleways are also used by pedestrians and cyclists.

Early purple orchids

A lasting legacy

This wood is just one of many to have been protected by gifts in wills, securing it for generations to come. Your legacy gift could also make a real difference to woods, trees and wildlife.

Learn what your gift could mean
Heartwood Forest - Management plan

Download

Heartwood Forest Management Plan

PDF  (169 KB)