Amazingly, London has over 20,000 hectares of woods and you can find woods and woodland to enjoy all over London.
There’s everything from ancient wild woods and big grand old forests that were royal hunting grounds to lovely little local woods and new woodland plantations all within the M25 that are perfect for a big day trip when you are looking for things to do outdoors in London.
But what are the best London woods and forests?
Well I’ve got for you here seven really stunning London woods that – in very different ways – are great for a big day out both with kids and without. These seven woods cover the whole city from Ruislip Wood in the west to Epping Forest in the east and Queens & Highgate Woods in the north to Petts Wood, Oxleas Woods and Joydens Wood in the south.
And then I’ve got a list for you of loads more brilliant woods with tips on what each wood has to offer for a great day out in London.
I do hope you find this guide to London woods helpful.
Do bookmark it or save it for quick reference later as it really is chock full of amazing days out in London that give us a chance both to run wild and let off steam and to find some peace and serenity amongst ancient trees and wonderful wildlife right here on our doorstep in London.
For more inspiration for great days out do check out all my other guides to fun things to do in London. You’ll find everything from brilliant small museums, historic houses with gorgeous gardens and ancient abbeys to pick your own farms and London’s last great wilderness by the Thames.
London’s 7 Best Woods
Epping Forest is the big old grand daddy of London Woods.
A giant hunting forest in east London over 8 miles from end to end, you can easily spend a day exploring Epping’s dense woodland and in fact if you really want to cover some ground, it’s worth taking bikes.
The forest is rich in wildlife with a significant population of fallow deer and is a great place for both butterfly and fungi spotting.
You can get to Epping Forest on the overground from Liverpool St to Chingford or the Central line to Theydon Bois.
To plan a day out read this Epping Forest mini guide.
Ruislip Wood in west London is a wonderful wood to explore with kids.
Part of the old wildwood that covered England after the last ice age Ruislip Wood is full of beautiful old oaks, beeches, hornbeams and silver birch and has some seriously brilliant climbing trees. In fact we would go so far as to say, it has the best climbing trees in any London wood.
The wood is spread around the Ruislip reservoir which has a small sandy beach and there’s even a narrow gauge steam train that goes through the edge of the wood and round the reservoir. The beach and train get busy on sunny days but it’s very easy to escape the crowds in the woods.
To get to Ruislip Wood take the Metropolitan or Piccadilly lines to Ruislip. And hop on the H13 or 331 bus right outside Ruislip station, getting off at the Ruislip Lido/Reservoir Road stop. You’ll see a brown sign to the lido and it’s just 2 minutes walk.
The National Trust’s Petts Wood in south London is magical for small children with groves, easy trees to climb and a stream but big enough to keep adults and older children entertained for a good half day and more in the summer when it’s a wonderful place to escape the heat.
There’s some lovely secret paths and dense undergrowth and lots of split sweet chestnuts which are great for climbing and making dens in but also small clearings and areas of heathland.
Petts Wood is easy to get to by public transport with direct 20 minute trains to Petts Wood station from Victoria and London Bridge and it’s a 10 minute walk from the station to the wood.
For full directions and more information to plan your trip check out the Petts Wood mini guide.
Joydens Wood, is another fantastic south London wood, near Bexley.
Set on a hill, Joyden’s Wood was once the border between Mercia and Kent and there are ancient ditches and dykes throughout the wood, which are perfect for woodland battles with hastily constructed stick swords and bows.
But recent history has also left it’s mark and there are bomb craters from the second world war.
You can walk to Joydens Wood easily from Bexley station, just over a mile away. If you’re driving it is best to park by the main entrance on Summerhouse Drive.
Oxleas Woods in Greenwich is over 70 hectares of ancient oak and beech wood on one of London’s highest hills which gives stunning views for miles across both south London and looking north over the whole city.
It’s a wonderful place for children to climb trees, build dens, play hide and seek and more and is right next to the lovely Woodlands Farm, which is free to visit all year round but has brilliant open days four times a year.
To add to the magic Oxleas Wood even has it’s own castle, Severndroog. As part of the Green Chain Walk Oxleas Wood is an excellent starting or stopping point for routes to Eltham Palace, Sydenham Wood or going east Lesnes Abbey & Wood.
For more information check out the Oxleas Wood Mini Guide.
Up in north London, Highgate Wood is not a big wood but it makes up for it with its prettiness – especially when the bluebells are out – and Highgate’s views.
The wood is just 5 minutes walk from Highgate tube station and you could combine a visit to the wood with a gentle potter around – and food maybe – in Highgate village.
Or walking over to Queens Wood …
Queens Wood is another little north London gem.
The wood is great for tree climbing but also for nature hunts as it is full of wild flowers and some pretty scarce bugs.
It’s just a few minutes over the road from Highgate Wood. And the handy Queens Wood Cafe is between the two woods so you can easily explore one wood in the morning and one after lunch at the cafe in the afternoon.
The two woods are also in walking distance of the Park Road outdoor pools in Crouch End which includes a 50 metre lido if you fancy a dip after a walk in the woods.
These seven woods make truly delightful days out in London but they really are just a starting point. For even more woodland adventures in London check out 18 more brilliant woods in London …
More London Woods & Woodlands
East London Woods
- Hainault Forest : East London’s second great area of forest land after Epping Forest, Hainault Forest is a 200 acre wood near Romford renowned for its birdlife. It’s part of the wider Hainault Park which includes Foxburrow Farm.
- Wick Woodland : a small east London wood by the River Lea Wick Woodland is just over the road from the Olympic Park.
- Thames Chase : the Thames Chase Community Forest covers a range of woodlands across east London including new woodlands being planted on derelict land with a Forest Visitor Centre just outside Upminster.
- Cely Woods : part of Thames Chase Cely Woods is a mixture of wetland, meadowland and newly planted woodland where you can cycle and horse ride.
South London Woods
- Lesnes Abbey Wood : a 15 minute walk from Abbey Wood station Lesnes Abbey Wood is a hidden gem of a wood – full of bluebells in spring – behind the ruins of Lesnes Abbey and includes an area where you can dig for fossils.
- Sydenham Wood & Dulwich Wood : very close to south London’s excellent Horniman Museum Sydenham & Dulwich Woods are a beautiful strip of the ancient North Wood reclaimed from the abandoned Crystal Palace railway. Read the Sydenham Wood Mini Guide to plan your visit.
- High Broom Woods : another tiny south London gem High Broom Woods is just 5 minutes walk from Bethlem Museum Of The Mind.
- High Elms Wood : the largest of the woods around Charles Darwins house on the very edge of south London. Darwin obsessively walked this string of woods on the north Downs and it was the inspiration for much of his work. High Elms Wood is part of a 250 acre country park with a visitor centre and cafe and is just 2 miles from Darwin’s home Down House.
- Blackbush & Twenty Acre Shaw Woods : tiny fragments of wood near Down House Blackbush & Twenty Acre are rich in orchids.
- Selsdon Wood Nature Reserve : owned by the National Trust Selsdon Wood is a big 200 acre wood again renowned for its bluebells and birdlife in the north Downs in the borough of Croydon.
North London Woods
- Whitewebbs Wood : a 140 acre wood in the very north of London with a mixture of woodland and stream Whitewebbs Woods is close to lovely Forty Hall.
- Coldfall Wood : a small area of ancient oak woodland in Muswell Hill next to the great St Pancras & Islington Cemetery.
- Pear Wood & Stanmore Country Park : close to Stanmore station Pear Wood is part of Stanmore Country Park and includes one of the best views of London on a fine day.
- Perivale Wood : unusually in London Perivale Wood is a private nature reserve managed for over 100 years by the Selborne Society. They do have occasional open days for non members.
West London Woods
- Osterley Park : the National Trust’s amazing country estate in west London Osterley Park has beautiful woodland as well as gardens.
- Crane Park : a wonderful mixture of woodland, reed bed and industrial heritage around the river Crane, Crane Park Island includes an old gunpowder mill.
- Gutteridge Wood : a small wood in Hillingdon with a pretty brook known for its bluebells in spring Gutteridge Wood can be walked as part of a trail with Ickenham Marsh and Ten Acre Wood.
I do hope this guide to London’s best woods has inspired you to get out and explore. For even more small local woods near you check out the Find A Wood feature from The Woodland Trust.
And for even more fun things to do in London check out my other big guides: