Where to find bluebell woods in Hertfordshire
With each year that passes, I find there are certain events in the British calendar which start to grow a bit stale. The culmination of the Premier League Football season for example, or the build up to Christmas… no doubt you have your own mental list. However, the appearance of bluebells in Hertfordshire woodlands each spring has yet to lose its appeal. We are fortunate to have some amazing bluebell woods in Hertfordshire.
After years of living in big cities, I moved to a village in Hertfordshire several years ago. Each spring I really enjoy seeing the bluebells appear: a sign that summer isn’t far off. There are certain Hertfordshire bluebell woods which I like to wander through each year while there are other woods which I only visit occasionally. One of my favourites is the Ashridge Estate bluebell woods: this is a particularly well known and impressive display. We also love the bluebell woods at Mardley Heath near Welwyn, a great spot for imaginary play and bike rides.
There are pockets of bluebell woods all over Herts so no doubt I have missed plenty from this list. You’ll notice in the map I’ve created at the end of this article that there is a bit of an East Herts bias to my bluebell walks, as this is my neck of the wood (sorry). Feel free to leave me a message in the comments at the end if there’s a bluebell walk in Hertfordshire which you think I should add.
And remember, our woodlands are rich in wildflowers – not just bluebells. Last spring when I visited one of our local bluebell woods, I discovered the bluebells had yet to flower fully but the wood was carpeted by tiny stitchwort blooms as well – really magical.
When do bluebells come out?
So, when is the best time to see bluebells in the British countryside? Well, the end of April and the start of May are pretty reliable for bluebell displays. Some years the blooms can be enjoyed in early April but a particularly cold winter (such as the one we had in 2018) can delay the flowers. If you do not live near a bluebell wood and you are planning to make a special journey to see bluebells, I would recommend going in late April as this should allow for any irregular weather patterns.
The different types of bluebell plant
There are two main species of bluebells in the UK – English and Spanish. It’s the English plant which we need to protect in the wild. Unfortunately you might discover that it is the Spanish variety which graces your garden each spring. The main difference between the two is how the flowers grow on the stem. The English bluebell has flowers on just one side of the stem which is why they droop slightly. On the Spanish bluebell, the flowers grow all around the stem.
Hertfordshire bluebell walks near London
If you live in London and you’re looking for the best bluebell woods near London, many of these Hertfordshire walks are accessible by train from London in under an hour. If you’d like a full day out, I’d recommend Panshanger Woods in Hertford or Bramfield Woods in Watton at Stone as they both offer an extensive walk as well as bluebells, in fact they’re lovely at any time of year. Both can be reached in about 40 minutes from Finsbury Park and are around a mile from the railway station.
The best bluebell woods in Hertfordshire
Ashridge Estate, near Berkhamsted
Perhaps the most well known stretch of bluebells in Hertfordshire, the National Trust’s Ashridge Estate is a fantastic outdoor space. There are woodlands and meadows, plenty of wildlife plus a monument to climb and a cafe to refuel in. We visited Ashridge Estate in mid April several years ago, it must have been a mild winter as the bluebells were already in full bloom.
Where to eat: there’s a great National Trust café at the Ashridge Estate
Postcode for parking: HP4 1LT
Whippendell Wood, Watford
If a walk amid bluebells sounds a bit tame, the Watford 10k race is known as the “bluebell run”. It takes in lovely Cassiobury Park (which features avenues of chestnut trees, a play area, cafe and bandstand) as well as the ancient woodland of Whippendell which will be carpeted with bluebells when the race takes place on the May Day bank holiday. Watford Junction is just 15 minutes train ride from London Euston so if you’re looking for bluebells near London, this is very accessible.
Where to eat: there are two cafes in Cassiobury Park
Oxhey Woods, Watford
This is a brilliant woodland for families – there’s a fun sculpture trail running through this local nature reserve which will keep little children entertained. The pathways are fine for buggies and there is a range of walking routes including a circular loop of about one kilometre which runs from the car park.
Heartwood Forest, near St Albans
Part newly planted forest, part ancient woodland, Heartwood is a work in progress landscape created by the Woodland Trust with the help of thousands of volunteers. There is plenty to keep kids interested including marked trails for little legs, a natural playground and den building areas. The bluebells can be found in a stretch of ancient woodland called Langley Woods – the flowers are protected behind a roped pathway so that visitors can enjoy them without fear of them being trampled on.
Where to eat: there’s a good selection of pubs in the nearby village of Sandridge
Hitchwood, near Preston, Hitchin
This stunning woodland sits near the village of Preston, midway between Hitchin and Knebworth. It’s a little more off the beaten track than some of the other suggestions in this article but there is a small car park on the corner of Hitchwood Lane and the B651.
Where to eat: we like the Rusty Gun, just up the road.
Post Wood, Ware
This little wood is really fun to explore. It’s quite hilly in places so if you’re bringing a buggy you’ll get a work out pushing it up and down the steep slopes (or you can stick to the higher levels if that doesn’t appeal).
Our kids love Post Wood: there are lots of trees to climb, fallen trunks to walk along, a very good rope swing and there are tons of squirrels. Easily accessible from Ware train station, this is a great location if you want a car-free bluebell fix. If you are accessing the woods from the Presdales recreation ground car park, walk straight across the field (we took a different path and ended up in the wrong place).
Ware itself has a great selection of eateries to recharge in after your walk.
Ware is under an hour from London Liverpool Street so it’s a great option if you’re looking for bluebell walks near London.
Where to eat: The Mexican in Ware is very popular
Panshanger Park, Hertford
This was our first bluebell success story after moving to Hertfordshire and we return in all seasons as it’s such a great place to bring the children: bluebells, den building, an easy circular walk for youngsters and excellent blackberries come summer.
This is another great option for Londoners looking for bluebells near London. Panshanger Woods is a mile from Hertford North train station which has a regular service into London taking around 40 minutes to Finsbury Park. There are no facilities at Panshanger, so make sure you use the loos at the train station! Panshanger is a huge park with a nature reserve, river, lakes and vast open meadows so it’s a lovely day out. Bring a picnic or head into Hertford for a meal: there are lots of great eateries in the town centre.
Where to eat: there are lots of great independent eateries in Hertford – my favourite is Lussmanns. But for a village pub head to the Grandison at Bramfield.
Balls Wood, Hertford
This woodland in Hertford Heath is managed by the Woodland Trust and has a series of ponds amid the trees. There are two waymarked trails through Balls Wood.
Where to eat: the College Arms is a local pub with a lovely garden
There is unofficial car parking on the Roundings next to the College Arms, postcode SG13 7PW
Wormley Wood and Nut Wood, Broxbourne National Nature Reserve
Hertfordshire’s only national nature reserve can be found just south of Hertford. Broxbourne National Nature Reserve is a brilliant place for a family bluebell walk in Hertfordshire. As well as the spring blooms, there’s also a brilliant sculpture trail running through part of the woodlands – perfect for little ones who need a bit of encouragement on a walk.
The bluebells are found in the ancient woodlands of Wormley and Nut Woods.
Where to eat: plenty of choice near Broxbourne Woods. We had a gigantic Sunday roast at The Farmer’s Boy in Brickendon. Otherwise, family-friendly Baker Arms and The Woodman and Olive both have play areas.
What3words car park location (Bencroft Wood West Car Park)
Sherrardspark Wood, Welwyn Garden City
This is a particularly large woodland to get lost in, despite its location within walking distance of Welwyn Garden City town centre. Like Post Wood in Ware and Panshanger in Hertford, this is a good option if you’re after a car-free bluebell day trip.
The bluebells here aren’t as plentiful as other Hertfordshire bluebell woods but it’s a fantastic place for a walk nonetheless.
Our children love this woodland – it has a little stream running through it which is perfect for paddling. There are lots of climbable trees and it’s great fun to explore by bike. Be warned, the carpark near the Red Lion pub can get pretty busy at weekends.
Where to eat: the Red Lion on the other side of the B197 has had good reviews
Pryor’s Wood, Stevenage
Stevenage gets a bad rap but it has hidden gems of brilliance. We love the town’s museum and the amazing green spaces which are spread across the town.
Pryors Wood is a nature reserve within Great Ashby District Park. This is a great place for a family day out – there’s a dedicated car park, picnic areas, play ground and a huge expanse of flat open space just crying out for a game of football.
There are bluebells in a small wooded area right next to the car park, but head in the opposite direction to find Pryors Wood – it’s stunning. There are well maintained pathways weaving their way through this ancient woodland and it’s positively noisy with the rustling of squirrels and the spring birdsong. I saw the unusual black squirrel when I visited in April 2022.
The car park is located at the end of a residential street (Serpentine Close) – it feels like you’re about to end up in someone’s driveway but follow the road round and the car park appears!
Where to eat: try the Crown at Aston End which has a lovely garden with a play area
Astonbury Woods, near Stevenage
This little woodland near Stevenage has recently been secured by the Wildlife Trust thanks to the donations of thousands of supporters.
If you drive along the A602 between Stevenage and Ware in late April, you’ll see the flash of blue from the road as you pass Astonbury Woods. The woods are located midway between two pubs – the Chequers at Bragbury End and the Three Horseshoes at Hooks Cross. However, you can’t really access the woods from the A602 (unless you use the car park of the Three Horseshoes pub, in exchange for booking a Sunday lunch perhaps). There are a few areas to park on the side of the road on Aston Bury Lane – look for the bend in the road where it meets Beehive Lane (the latter isn’t a road – it’s a footpath).
Although Astonbury Woods is small, it’s a great spot for a family walk (just keep a look out for the deep pond in the middle of the wood). During our visit, we discovered a huge den – there must be some very industrious visitors to this hidden spot.
Comb’s Wood, near Dane End
I cycled through this woodland one spring evening in 2021. I’m not sure whether it was the pale evening light breaking through into the woodland or simply the joy of being out on my bike in lovely weather, but Comb’s Wood was breath-taking and I can’t wait for next spring so I can cycle there every week.
There’s a meandering path through the woodland, and a large fallen tree in the centre for kids to play on. If you follow the trail down the hill you cross a stream and head up another hillside – with woodland on one side and (if you time it right) a meadow of daisies on the other – I think the daisies come out some weeks after the bluebells.
There are just a couple of spaces for cars to park along Whempstead Road.
Where to eat: try the Bull in Watton at Stone or the Crown at Aston End
Mardley Heath, near Welwyn Garden City
This is one of our favourite local woodlands – it’s particularly brilliant if you bring a bike (just avoid cycling over the bluebells!). There is an amazing tree – we call it a monster tree – which has exposed roots on a hillside, creating a cave-like area beneath where children can hide. The roots are a brilliant natural climbing frame.
There aren’t as many flowers at Mardley Heath as there are in other Hertfordshire bluebell woods but this is a truly wonderful place to bring children.
Where to eat: the White Horse at Burnham Green is a short drive away and has a good play area.
Tewin Orchard, near Welwyn Garden City
I’ve earmarked Tewin Orchard as a place to bring my boys when they’re a bit older to spy on badgers from the purpose-built badger hides. At the moment the kids are too noisy for badgers to dare come close, so we’ll stick to the impressive bluebells in spring and the apple festival at the end of summer.
There are only a couple of parking spaces just inside the orchard. To reach the woodland, walk through the orchard, following the signs to the badger hide. From there, you cross over a dip in the land and the woods are beyond – access to this woodland isn’t buggy or wheelchair friendly.
Where to eat: the Plume of Feathers has a lovely beer garden with play area.
Gobions Woods, near Potters Bar
This nature reserve just north of Potters Bar is a really interesting spot with ponds, a canal network and meadows as well as a bluebell wood which has a one mile waymarked trail running through it. Brookmans Park train station is a 20 minute walk from the woods.
Northaw Great Wood, near Cuffley
A couple of miles from Gobions Woods is this lovely big woodland, midway between Cuffley and Potters Bar. Northaw is made up predominantly of oak, birch and hornbeam. There are dense areas and meadow – perfect for a picnic.
There are several places from which to access the woods – the main car park at along a woodland road off the Ridgeway. This car park has toilets.
Bramfield Woods, Watton at Stone
This is a popular spot for cycling or horse riding and it’s buggy-friendly too. There are pathways running from Watton at Stone to Datchworth and Bramfield, each village has some good pubs if you need a pit stop. Otherwise, picnic amid the beautiful bluebells.
Watton at Stone railway station is around 45 minutes from Finsbury Park so it’s an easy day trip if you’re looking for bluebell walks near London.
If you fancy a long walk, park at the station or at the Community Centre in Watton at Stone (both free but limited spaces) and access the woods from Perrywood Lane. It’s approximately two miles along country lanes from the train station. Otherwise, there is a small amount of roadside parking along Winding Shot.
Where to eat: plenty of choice – try the Bull at Watton at Stone, the Grandison at Bramfield or the Horns at Datchworth
Map of bluebell woods in Hertfordshire
As you can see from my map of Hertfordshire bluebell woods, my compilation is slightly biased towards East Herts where I live – if you’re from another part of the county and you have know of some brilliant bluebell woods in Herts, please do let me know.
More family-friendly walks in Hertfordshire
Where do you recommend going to see bluebell woods in Hertfordshire? If you have a favourite Hertfordshire bluebell walk, let me know in the comments below.
Need refreshments? I’ve put together an extensive list of tried and tested pubs in Hertfordshire which are great for families.
Looking for fun days out in Hertfordshire? I’ve written a guide to the best places to visit in Hertfordshire.
Looking for other ways to get outside in the UK? I’ve written about the best sculpture parks and sculpture trails in the UK which covers some brilliant outdoor art, perfect for families who want to get their kids engaged with art.
If you’re driving in the UK, make sure you take a look at my post about family-friendly places to stop just off the motorway. It covers everything from play areas to picnic spots, castles to nature reserves.