Eight geotag journalists exploring your city. This week: Contrasting London.

Four forgotten forests

By Ramona Fischer

In London you can access both the newest and the most ancient forests easily via tube, no matter in which direction your personal compass points.

You can find fields of flowers, ancient archeological sites or discover the landscape laboratory of Charles Darwin. Escape the city and start exploring.
North-West North-East South-West South-East

North-West: Merry Hill

Merry Hill is London’s youngest forest. The 76ha wood in Hertfordshire was arable farmland until 1996.

Over the last decade more than 62,000 trees and three miles of hedgerows have been planted in the new woodland between Harrow and Watford.

According to Paul Hetherington from the Woodland Trust, Merry Hill is one of the most flourishing woods in London.

Between fields of buttercups you can find an orchard and a wide range of carefully composed flowers that let the wood flourish throughout all seasons, he said.

This makes Merry Hill a destination for photographers and artists who want to capture blossoms or bees buzzing around.

Click to learn more about Merry Hill forest

Tube Station: Hatch End (Bakerloo line, Overground).


North-East: Hainault Forest

One of the best surviving medieval forests around London.

Located in the borough of Redbridge, Hainault Forest was long known as the 'Forest of Essex'.

A former hunting site of the royal house, the historic woodland still is home for a wide range of rare wild animals, such as the Andean Guanacos, a domestic Lama.

In Sheepwater there is also a pond next to which the local herbalist Dido is said to have lived in the 19th century, producing natural medicine using trees and plants.

Some of his ingredients can still be found today. Watch out for rare plants such as dwarf gorse or lousewort, which grow in a small area of heather heath land.

Or dig around in the wooden earth yourself. Away from the noise of the city, you can take part in one of the forest's volunteer schemes.

Tube Station: Hainault station (Central line). Detailed info


South-West: Blackbush and Twenty Acre Shaw

Explore the woodland that inspired Charles Darwin.

Both forests Blackbush and 20 Acre Shaw lie in the Downe Valley near the village of Cudham in the borough of Bromley.

The region is known as the landscape laboratory of Charles Darwin.

The Victorian scientist and naturalist lived at nearby Down House.

In Downe Valley Darwin used to carry out his studies, observing and analysing the species of plants. The area is of such historical significance that it is a proposed World Heritage Site.

Station: Cudham Hill (Southern)
Detailed info


South-East: Joydens Wood

Located on a hilltop between the London borough of Bexley and the Dartford borough of Kent, Joydens Wood is popular among cyclists, horse riders - and those who are interested in exploring archeology.

21km (13 miles) away from the city, you can exercise and walk amidst the remains of 2000-year-old ancient stones.

Discover traces of settlement, such as the relics of two late Iron Age roundhouses.

Or look out for the Faestons Dic - a defensive structure that was built by the Saxons and is running for over a kilometre through the hilly area that is devided by a valley.

You may also find small underground chalk caves, the so-called "deneholes" and two (probably overgrown) bomb craters where allied fighters crashed into the wood during WorldWar2.

Tube station: Bexley station (Jubilee line)

Back to article