It’s rather telling of the times we’re living in that woodland “den building” has become an advertised activity. But if that’s what has to be done to get kids playing outdoors, then so be it. If your offspring require some inspiration for their den building, look no further than Heartwood Forest near St Albans. This newly planted forest with pockets of ancient woodland is an impressive project created by the Woodland Trust.
We visited Heartwood at the start of May and were rewarded with carpets of bluebells in Langley Woods, one of the ancient woodland areas. It is here that you’ll also find the den building area, which on our visit was packed with families picnicking in the shade of the oak and hornbeam trees.
As well as bluebells, we spotted a variety of other wildflowers including elegant Lords and Ladies, Yellow Archangel and Stitchwort. There were some brilliant mature trees in Langley Wood, we particularly liked a stand of hornbeams which looked like a group of ghostly figures.
Thanks to thousands of volunteers over the last ten years, Heartwood Forest has been transformed from what was predominantly arable land into a 347 hectare site with over half a million newly planted trees. The Woodland Trust has also created new hedgerows to provide an important habitat for wildlife.
Heartwood has walking trails for all abilities including paths suitable for buggies and wheelchairs. There are bridleways for horses and bikes are also welcome. Aside from Langley Wood, children will enjoy the 1.5 mile Magical Meander through one of the new woodland areas. Along the way you’ll spot carved wooden creatures, reflecting the range of wildlife at Heartwood.
Heartwood features a community orchard which includes old local varieties of apples and pears plus an arboretum containing all 60 native UK tree species. I’m looking forward to returning to Heartwood in the summertime to see the wildflower meadows, I’ve seen some lovely photos on Instagram of cornflowers (my favourite), oxeye daisies and poppies amid the tall grasses.
There are plenty of events planned by the Woodland Trust to entice visitors to Heartwood including guided walks, children’s activities such as nature detective experiences plus a summer festival.
Refreshments: We haven’t eaten out in this part of Hertfordshire but the pubs in the surrounding villages look very appealing. Otherwise, Heartwood is perfect picnicking territory.
Parking and transport: Heartwood Forest is 4km from St Albans train station (20 minutes from London), otherwise there is a large car park at the forest (postcode AL4 9DQ) and further parking (plus toilets) in nearby Sandridge village.
More family-friendly walks in Hertfordshire: