Hatfield Forest - Every Step Counts

Wet weather takes its toll on Hatfield Forest, especially in the autumn and winter. As the ground conditions deteriorate, we ask you to please be patient. Together, we can take every step to care for the forest at this time of year.

Why does Every Step Count?

Hatfield Forest dates back to medieval times and today it welcomes half a million visits every year and growing – that’s twice as many as ten years ago and a lot of footsteps on muddy paths.

The grass on the paths wears away and the clay soil becomes compacted and waterlogged, resulting in some areas becoming a muddy mess. This has a serious impact for our much loved, ancient forest.

A very special place

While Hatfield Forest may look like other forests or woods you’ve visited, it’s actually a Site of Specific Scientific Interest  and a National Nature Reserve, so there are steps we must all take to look after it and keep it special for everyone.

What steps can we all take? 

To help manage the most vulnerable paths, we will need to let some rest and recover. We’re already seeing good signs of recovery from last winter but there is still more to do and nature needs time to rest and rejunvenate. This year we are going to put in some diversions to give the most vulnerable paths a rest. There will be diversion signs in place but you can also plan your walk by downloading this map.

Hatfield Forest path diversions map (PDF / 2MB) download

Chestnut hurdles in action at Eight Wantz Ways
chestnut hurdles in place as part of the path diversion programme

Current Works

We have started work on an important path improvement programme.  A popular short cut from the corner of the Shell House car park to the main plain through Collins Coppice had lost all its vegetation and become very muddy due to over-use and erosion at wet times of the year.  

The new path will be testing four different types of surface: soil mixed with gravel, rolled gravel with timber edging, rolled gravel without edging and some non-slip recycled plastice boardwalk. 

When complete, this 150m stretch of path will help the forest flora by protecting some rare plants and allowing orchids to re-establish in the grassy edges along the path

Play your part in shaping Hatfield Forest's future

We want to know what the forest means to you and how we can better balance access for all our visitors with caring for this very special place.

So far we have held two community workshops, a drop in event at the forest and an online survey - thank you to all those who took part.  We are now gathering all the information and data from various parts of the community including different areas of interest and user groups. We will keep you informed of the progress. This is only the beginning, and we greatly value the time you have taken to help us try and find a sustainable future where there is a balance between nature and access.

Shaping the Future of Hatfield Forest Together workshop 1 summary (PDF / 0.2MB) download

Shaping the Future of Hatfield Forest Together # 1 word for word report (PDF / 0.7MB) download

Shaping the Future of Hatfield Forest Together # 2 (PDF / 0.3MB) download

What about events?

We are not running large scale events in early spring and may change the format of some events throughout the year to help the forest recover. Once the ground conditions are better we will be hosting some of our more popular events but will be monitoring the impact of these with the support of Natural England. We'll continue to keep you updated on all our events.

But how did we continue our vital conservation work?

It was important that our conservation team continued working all year round. During winter you may have seen the team busy working on wood pasture restoration, path widening to aid the ground drying out; coppicing and sheep husbandry to care for our conservation grazers.

To carry out this work our team used the All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) which is designed to be driven in all conditions, whilst limiting impact and erosion of the ground. Wherever possible we use hard surfaced roads in and out of the forest or we walk. Sometimes we need heavier equipment taken out to site so we use routes which have been carefully chosen to reduce impact to the forest.

This spring we have a 'conservation in action' success story to share with you. Ten years ago the team coppiced an area south of Forest Lodge in the hopes it would provide habitat suitable for nightingales. This May we've heard them singing their hearts out!

Winter ways of working

To help care for the forest during winter, we limited visitors cars to the hard standing car parks and our heavier estate vehicles to the roads whenever possible.

A big thank you

We’re committed to caring for Hatfield Forest and thank you for your support. Together, we can find a way to secure a healthier future for the forest and sure it can be enjoyed by everyone.