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Micheldever Wood
Photograph: Julian Gazzard / Shutterstock.com

7 lovely forests near London for wholesome woodland walks

Whether you’re forest bathing or just frolicking, get a load of these great big forests right outside London

By Alexandra Sims
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Can’t bear heading out on another lap of your local park? After months spent in lockdown, an idyllic walk in the woods is the perfect way to get out of the house and stretch your legs. While it’s been tedious, day after day of being cooped up indoors has turned us into a bunch of nature lovers. In fact, mental-health charity Mind says that being in natural light and spending time in the great outdoors are powerful ways to combat any general grouchiness you might be feeling. So what are you waiting for?

London’s surrounds are full of leafy hideaways perfect for escaping the city. Now we can legally head out on a day trip, and stay overnight in self-contained accommodation (including Airbnbs and campsites), we can explore everything from woodland glades carpeted with bluebells to ancient forests ribboned with sculpture trails. 

Here are our favourite forests – all within easy reach of the city – for woodland walks, tree hugging, and sweet, sweet freedom from our flats.

RECOMMENDED: The best places to see wildflowers in the UK

Amazing forests and woodlands near London

Rendlesham Forest
Rendlesham Forest
Photograph: Shutterstock

Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk

If you like your greenery with a side of the supernatural, Rendlesham Forest is the one for you. You can take the UFO Trail, which wends past sites associated with a famous unexplained light sighting in December 1980. There are also other walking routes, play areas and bike trails for exploring this dense, protected woodland. Oh, and by the way, if you get abducted and probed during your visit, we won’t be held responsible.

Get there: Two and a half hours by car. 

Abinger Roughs
Abinger Roughs
Photograph: Shutterstock

Abinger Roughs, Surrey

For some perspective on our current world predicament, visit the ancient, gnarly oak trees on Abinger Roughs. Those wise old trunks are more than 300 years old. They also rubbed shoulders with Charles Darwin, who is known to have wandered the Roughs in the 1870s. To get up close with more veteran trees, stroll into nearby Netley Park’s 211 acres of woodland, also owned by the National Trust. 

Get there: One hour and 20 minutes by car. 

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Shere Woodlands, Surrey
Shere Woodlands, Surrey
Photograph: Shutterstock

Shere Woodlands, Surrey

Stick around in Surrey to find more wooded wilderness. The pretty village of Shere (which has mega-festive romcom vibes thanks to its cameo in ‘The Holiday’) is surrounded by the kind of woodland that feels like it should be much further away from a capital city than it is. You’ll find yourself amid beech, cypress,  yew and dogwood trees, frosty in winter and buzzing with butterflies come summer. If you’re feeling adventurous, the North Downs Way runs right through the heart of the wood: east for Dover, west for Farnham. 

Get there: One hour and 20 minutes by car. 

Micheldever Wood
Micheldever Wood
Photograph: Julian Gazzard / Shutterstock.com

Micheldever Wood, Hampshire

Famous for its carpet of bobbing bluebells each May, Micheldever Wood is also a great place to get your fix of the natural stuff in the colder months. The walking routes among the ancient beech trees, home to muntjac deer (sweet-faced little creatures), are a tranquil way to spend a few hours. And it’s all just a few miles outside the city of Winchester, if you absolutely must have a damned flat white with your nature fix.

Get there: One hour and 40 minutes by car. 

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Kings Wood
Kings Wood
Photograph: Mikael Leppä/Flickr

King’s Wood, Kent

One-and-half thousand acres of trees on the Kent Downs, King’s Wood is big enough to let yourself get lost in. It’s dotted with sculptures crafted from natural materials, some of which are now being reclaimed by the forest. Pick a trail through the trees and with any luck the only social distancing you’ll have to worry about is from the resident deer and adder population.

Get there: Just over two hours by car.

Wendover Woods
Wendover Woods
Photograph: Shutterstock

Wendover Woods, Buckinghamshire

It’s no surprise that the Chiltern Hills is an ace place to head to when you want to swap pavements for muddy country tracks. They’re at the end of the Met line, and are lush all year round. Try Wendover Woods for great walking and cycling trails, as well as Go Ape, orienteering and an assault course (which will open after lockdown).

Get there: One hour and 30 minutes by car. 

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Broxbourne Woods
Broxbourne Woods
Photograph: Shutterstock

Broxbourne Woods, Hertfordshire

Hertfordshire’s only National Nature Reserve, Broxbourne Woods is around 600 acres of diverse trees. It’s just a little beyond the M25, but there are legit rural vibes to be found here:  streams, meadows and paths through the woodland. Haven’t really been outside properly since the summer? The 17.5km trail is the one if you need a big, full-day dose of the outdoors.

Get there: One hour and 30 minutes by car. 

More day trips within reach of London

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