Plan your winter visit to Hatfield Forest
Hatfield Forest is a special place, the beauty of which is best enjoyed during the summer months, when the ground underfoot is dry. In autumn, winter and early spring, the underlying heavy Essex clay does not drain very well and the ground rapidly becomes very muddy and unpleasant to walk on - we strongly advise sticking to the hard-standing where ever possible!
Best time to visit Hatfield Forest
The best time to visit the Forest is between May and September, to help us reduce the impact on the historic rides and wood pastures.
Visiting between October and April?
During late autumn, winter and early spring, weekdays tend to be quieter than weekends. We have limited hard-standing parking at the main entrance gate for about 60 cars during the week. At weekends we have an additional 60 spaces in the lake car park. On a fine sunny day, both can quickly fill up, especially around the midday peak, so please arrive early and be prepared to queue to get in as once we're full as we have to operate a "one in, one out" policy.
During the week
The main entrance gate is closed to help the Forest recover, so you can walk on the roads without having to dodge cars. See below for our suggested best walk.
The Cafe is open Wednesday to Sunday and serves hot food from 10am - 2.30pm.
The shop is closed.
Over the weekend
The main entrance gate is open between 10am and 3pm. Cars will be heading down to the lake car park, where spaces are limited to 60 cars. Once this is full, we operate a "one in, one out policy", so please be prepared to queue.
The Cafe will be serving hot food from 10am - 2.30pm
The Shop will be open from 10am - 3pm
School holidays and Festive periods
Please check the opening times during holidays and the festive season to see what's open and when.
Best winter walk
You can enjoy a good circular walk on hard surfaces, along the road from the main entrance, towards the lake, by the cafe and toilets, across the end of the lake, and then back along the boardwalk to the access road. This takes you through a pleasant mixture of wood pasture, coppice and lake scenery and takes between 90 and 120 min, depending on how distracted you become. This is more fully described in the trail "Hatfield Forest Tree Walk"
To extend this slightly, just after crossing the second cattle grid and entering the first coppice, you can take a right turn and follow a hard surface track towards the exit road. Then turn left and walk towards the lake area. This adds another 15 min.
At weekends, take care when walking on the access and exit road, as they will be being used by cars.