Hatfield Forest Winter Walk

A track disappearing through the trees at Hatfield Forest in autumn

Hatfield Forest is extremely biodiverse and if we don't let it recover, species which call this place home will be lost forever. Help us look after this National Nature Reserve and Site of Special Interest by keeping to the hardstanding and following the Winter Trail during the wetter months

This trail is marked as Circular Route 1 (blue route) on the attached map.  It is about 2 m (3 km) long and should take about 1 h.

Winter trail (PDF / 0.240234375MB) download

Points of interest include:

A.  How old is this tree?

For much of its life, this tree has been pollarded, giving it a distinctive shape.  Uncut for the last 100 years, this tree was probably planted 400 years ago.

B.  Into the woods

Known as Gravel Pit Coppice, many of the Oak and Hornbeam trees have been coppiced at some point in their past.  This area was last coppiced in 1933 and will will now be left to mature without major cutting. 

C.  Natural or man-made?

The lake is in fact a man-made alteration, constructed by the Houblon family who owned the forest from 1729 to 1923.  The lake was extended under plans by Lancelot "Capability" Brown.

D.  Why not take a short stroll around the Decoy lake?

This body of water is not a true decoy lake, used for trapping of watefowl, but rather part of the landscape designed for the Houblon family by  Lancelot "Capability" Brown.  It was cut off from the main lake when the dam wall you have just walked across was raised in height.

E.  Why not build a house out of shells?

A Georgian summer house, built for the Houblon family in about 1756, the Shell House is a reminder of how people in the past enjoyed the forest.  You'll also find the cafe in this area, so you can enjoy a coffee and sandwich in Georgian splendour.

F.  A forest without many trees?

Forest did not mean a large wood in the medieval period.  It was the name given to areas where deer were kept for hunting.  Much of this forest is wood pasture.  The deer are joined in the summer by grazing cattle, as well as sheep which conservation graze smaller areas, to remove bramble and scrub all year round.  Grazing has occurred here for at least the last 1,000 years.