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.
- Free Parking
- Off Lead Areas
- On Lead Areas
- Pathed Routes
- Animals On Route
- Water On Route
Beside a care home called Tara's Retreat, AL4 9DQJessamine Cottage, 1 High St, Sandridge, St Albans AL4 9DG, UK
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