Spending time in nature is incredibly important for our physical and mental health. It helps us to reconnect with the world, relieve stress and exercise our bodies. The benefits of nature and forest hiking for kids are particularly salient, with their confidence, creativity, sense of responsibility, and cognitive and motor development all growing when they spend more time outdoors. However, the joys of nature are not just restricted to little ones – adults can find the outdoors calming and energising too.
Woodland and forest environments are arguably the best for families, solo travellers and small groups to explore. There are plenty of sights, sounds, smells and textures to investigate, and the shelter of the trees can provide useful protection against pouring rain or blazing sun. If you’re looking for a forest hike to escape to, here are 5 of the best places to go:
1. Grizedale Forest, Lake District
Stretching between Windermere and Coniston Water, Grizedale Forest offers 8,000 acres of undulating mixed woodland. There are endless forest hiking trails to tramp in varying difficulties, and the forest is dotted with impressive sculptures created by some of the UK’s best contemporary artists. You can also find plenty of scenic viewing spots, with the highest being the 314m high Carron Crag, which offers incredible panoramic views of the rolling, rugged countryside.
2. Ashdown Forest, East Sussex
AA Milne took inspiration from Ashdown Forest for his renowned Winnie-the-Pooh stories, and it’s easy to see why when you take in the region’s pretty rolling hills and heathland. Milne lived at the edge of the forest and created Hundred Acre Wood in its image. There are a couple of Winnie-the-Pooh forest hiking paths to take which kids will love. They include points of interest from the stories, including a wooden Pooh Sticks bridge and Roo’s Sandy Pit.
Related Reading: Why we need to plant more trees, starting today
3. Sherwood Forest, Nottingham
Known for being the old stomping ground of legendary Robin Hood, Sherwood Forest is an essential visit for history buffs. You can visit the renowned Major Oak, which is thought to be around 1000 years old. This is where Robin Hood and his Merry Men were said to have taken shelter. Sherwood Forest is now a nature reserve and home to Europe’s biggest collection of ancient oak trees, as well as many rare birds, mammals, insects and fungi.
4. The New Forest, Hampshire
Covering over 140,000 acres, the New Forest is one of the largest remaining patches of woodland, heathland and pastureland in the south of England. It incorporates 15 miles of the south coast, between Hurst Castle and Calshot Castle. This means you can find hiking routes that offer the best of both worlds if you can’t decide between a woodland walk and a coastal trail.
5. Kielder Forest, Northumberland
If you want to catch sight of native red squirrels, Kielder Forest is the place to do it. Half of England’s red squirrel population resides here, so bring a pair of binoculars. There’s a wide range of trails to choose from in the trees, but if you’re not afraid of the dark, then consider taking a walk at night to go stargazing. The forest is part of Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, which means it’s free enough from light pollution that you can catch incredible views of the night sky.
Get outdoors with a forest hike
Now you know about some of the best spots for forest hiking, there’s no excuse not to put on your walking boots and get out in the great outdoors.