Posted by Francesca De Franco on 14 Feb 2019

I love the area we live in; 15 miles in one direction and you’re in central London yet nature and beautiful green spaces are on the doorstep.

On that note I’ve put together a list of  7 great woods in our local area to discover (if you haven’t already)…

Banstead Woods
Holly Lane car park, Holly Lane, CR5 3NR

The site of Banstead Woods and Chipstead Downs is designated a Local Nature Reserve for its ancient woodland, rare species and chalk grassland habitats. Banstead Woods not only boasts some beautiful types of trees, but also a great nature trail and the Narnia Trail with its fantastic The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe themed wood carvings.

The Banstead Woods Nature Trail is approximately 3 miles (5km) long and takes 1.5-2.5 hours. More details here.

The Narnia Trail gives you the opportunity to meet Aslan, Lucy Pevensey and the White Witch and you can even step through the wardrobe itself! Children can also take plant and animal rubbings en route.

The trail is approximately half an hour long and is pushchair friendly in the main, though there are some gravel paths and steep inclines. There are no toilets or places to buy food, but there are plenty of benches if you take a picnic.

Oxshott Heath & Woods
Sandy Lane Car park: (approximate postcode KT22 0NZ)

A woodland, heath and common covering approximately 200 acres, Oxshott Heath & Woods is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest. It is home to both coniferous and deciduous trees and has an abundance of flora and fauna.

It includes a sandpit, which was used in WWII as a source of sand for sandbags. Very accessible, there are several car parks and Oxshott train station is nearby. There are a number of walks (though nothing child-specific) and a walk can be extended over to nearby Esher Common. More details here.

There are no amenities en route so snacks etc essential, though there are a number of pubs nearby!

Prince’s Coverts
Access points – with some parking – are on Leatherhead Road and on Fairmile Road at Highgate Cottages Gate

Staying in Oxshott, you’ll also find Prince’s Coverts, a managed woodland owned by the Crown Estate. The 12-point Coverts trail is a 3.5-mile marked trail which starts and ends at Prince’s Gate and takes you through several different woods and includes a picnic site. The Great Oaks ancient woodland is home to a host of bluebells in springtime.

The brochure gives information about the history of Prince’s Coverts and details the trail, you can find it here.

Despite what the brochure says, walkers no longer require a key.

Banstead Heath
Deans Lane, Walton-on-the-Hill (plenty of on street parking)

Banstead Heath is part of the Banstead Commons and covers 760 acres. It’s a great place to spot a wide variety of birds and butterflies and has a wealth of different fungi in season (one of my daughters is obsessed with mushroom-spotting!).

This is our go to for a quick circular walk, but there are more official and longer routes to explore, more details are here.

When you’ve finished in the woods there is the lovely Mere pond to visit, which is home to many ducks. I can also recommend the nearby Grey Dove Café.

Box Hill
Visitor Centre, The Old Fort, Box Hill Road, Tadworth, KT20 7LB

This is a National Trust-owned family favourite! It includes a great natural play trail (a flat two-mile walk), which provides a great opportunity for children to play in the woods. The trail takes about an hour, but you can really stretch it out if you want.

There are lots of trees and structures to climb on (including fallen trees, which have been made into bridges to walk along), stepping stones, tunnels to scramble through, tree archways to walk under and a number of natural play features on the route. There’s also a secret play place hidden between the trees. Don’t forget to check out the big beech trees with their knobbly roots and to build a den!

There is also the slightly more difficult  – and less woody –  Stepping Stones walk

As this is National Trust, there’s a café and toilets at the start of the trail/s as well as two car parks (free for National Trust members). 

Ashtead Common 
Parking is available at Ashtead Railway Station, which is on the southern edge of the common and there is street parking near the station

This 200-hectare ancient wooded common, owned by the City of London Corporation, is another local Site of Special Scientific Interest and a National Nature Reserve.

Ashtead Common is made up of woodland, grassland, scrub and wetland and is home to over 50 different species of trees and shrubs including its famous (and rare) pollarded oaks, which date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. You’ll also be able to spot plenty of animals and insects as well as 300-plus species of plant. This is another great place for bluebells in the springtime. More info here.

For more robust woodland walkers there’s a four-mile circular pub walk, which starts and ends at The Star (KT22 0DP):  

Langley Vale Wood
There is no car park yet and it’s recommended you travel by public transport (see below links for further details)

Langley Vale is one of four woods (one in each country of the UK) that is being planted by the Woodland Trust to mark the centenary of World War One. This is a work-in-progress but the 640-acre site already has pockets of ancient woodland and plenty of fauna (including many species of birds) and flora to see.

Planting started late 2014, and it’s expected that 70,000 trees will be in the ground in the 2018/19 planting season. The plan is to have 200,000 native trees, including beech, rowan, hawthorn and oak, planted by the end of the project.

“Over the years, it will develop into a mosaic of established woodland, grassy clearings, poppy-filled meadows a memorial area for quiet reflection.”

Find out more here and on the map here.

Happy Discovering!

Fran xx

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Francesca De Franco
I’m Fran a Londoner living in Surrey with my great husband and our three lovely children. My eldest daughter is 15 and my twin daughters are aged 12.

I'm a freelance PR consultant and also run The Parent Social blog where I write about the activities we do, the places that we visit, the games that we play as well as all the every day parenting (and some non-parenting) stuff in between. I also have a wine and food PR consultancy and blog -

My love for communicating and writing, mirrors my passion for trying to be the best mum I can be. Interests include good food and wine, Italian culture, football and personal finance.

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