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Dog walk

Heartwood Forest

St Albans, Sandridge

Type of walk

Hilly, Flat, Forest, Park

What's here

Free Parking, Off Lead Areas, On Lead Areas, Pathed Routes, Animals On Route, Water On Route

About this walk

Heartwood Forest is a relatively new country park near St Albans in Hertfordshire. The eventual plan is that it will be the largest man-made forest on record. While it’s still in these early days, they don’t appear to be actively marketing it, which means that it is never uncomfortably busy.

To find Heartwood forest, look for a care home called Tara’s Retreat (AL4 9DQ). There is a brown sign, indicating the entrance road. It’s not concreted, so prepare for a bumpy ride in! There’s a free car park with space for about 50 cars. On busier days, they open a small area of field as an overflow car park. The only two pooh bag bins are either side of the car park, so encourage your dog to do their business at the beginning or end of the walk, or be prepared for a walk carrying a bag of poop.

You will be greeted with countryside as far as the eye can see. On a good day, from the top of the hill, you can see past Hatfield, all the way towards Borehamwood. Sandridge is a small village with a beautiful church which makes for a beautiful landscape if you like photography.

I won’t suggest routes for you to walk, because although there are signposted routes, it’s well contained enough that you can easily find your own way. We usually manage about three miles, around some of the perimeter. There are pebbled paths for some of the way, but be prepared to put on your wellies for wet days and trudge through some muddy fields. It’s also exposed, so wrap up warm in the winter or prepare to lose feeling in your face!

There are uphill parts, downhill parts and flat parts, so choose your route depending on what you’re comfortable with. There are no really steep parts though, this is a relatively flat part of the world.

Expect to see plenty of wildlife. Owls, rabbits and a variety of small birds are resident. There are also badger setts and fox holes, which are nicely evidenced by the stinkiest poop you can imagine. If your dog is a scent hound like mine, I guarantee they will roll in it. Yuck! During spring, the woods are literally full of bluebells, and during summer, the surrounding fields are crammed with beautiful poppies.

Things to be aware of before you set off – there are no toilets or refreshment facilities, bar the portaloo which sporadically appears and disappears. I know that Woodland Trust have struggled to get planning permission even for the “Welcome to Heartwood” signs, so I’m not even sure they’ll ever try to get permission either. Sandridge is also a rural village, so don’t expect to find somewhere to get a coffee and a sit down. You’re better off taking your own flask, and hoping for a nice day for a picnic.

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glasgowgrey

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Comments (4)

  • gwen profile
    gwen

    2 years ago

    Went here Oct 2016. Well worth a visit. Huge dog friendly area for walks, both wooded and open fields. They are just starting to put up signposted walks. Tree planting still going on.
  • occasionalwalker profile
    occasionalwalker

    2 years ago

    Finally got round to doing this walk this August; we followed the shortest marked walk ("Magical Meander") as there was rain forecast and my husband and I were both a bit stiff from a netball session the day before! Our friends' dog seemed to love it, she was charging around all over the place as soon as we let her off the lead and as we passed quite a few other dog walkers, she was able to get in a little playtime. The car park and entrance to it have had a lot of improvement work done; the road is narrow but the surface is decent. (Be aware if going this summer, the car park is closed for two weeks from the 14th August 2017 to finish a last bit of surfacing work!) Definitely hoping to take her there again, and it will be fascinating to see how it develops.
  • warringtone profile
    warringtone

    a year ago

    Just to add, there is now a dog friendly tea room in Sandridge! Perfect for a cup of tea and a slice of cake after a nice walk.
  • DetteNewby profile
    DetteNewby

    a year ago

    Hi there are toilets in the village and there is also a beautiful dog friendly tea room in the village. The drive and paths have also been seriously upgraded recently.
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How to get there

Address

Jessamine Cottage, 1 High St, Sandridge, St Albans AL4 9DG, UK

Location details

Beside a care home called Tara's Retreat, AL4 9DQ

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