If you’re looking for wide open space and some peace and solitude this walk is just for you. As a local dog owner, you’ll be more than familiar with the amazing natural spaces of Nomansland and Heartwood Forest, but let’s face it, it can get a bit boring doing the same old route over and over. This walk is a brilliant alternative and especially lovely as it includes Heartwood’s native tree arboretum, planted in the winter of 2015-16 – which is still relatively quiet and absolutely teaming with wildflowers and bird life.
It’s an easy, flat circular route and follows a mixture of waymarked trail paths and open grassland. There are three road crossings which need care, plenty of free parking, off and on-lead areas, and a couple of poo bins. The route described is approximately 3km and takes about 35 minutes depending on your pace and there are plenty of options if you want to extend it.
Heartwood Forest, owned and managed by the Woodland Trust, is now the largest continuous new native forest in England. And it’s not just woodland, it includes an orchard, wildflower meadows and the arboretum – a kind of outdoor tree museum devoted to specimen planting which in this instance showcases nearly every tree species native to the UK.
Today’s walk takes you through the arboretum, from the south to the north of the Grand Ride – (a central track, with taller grassland/shrubs on either side) where you’ll find information boards describing each section in more detail.
A note about dogs – between March and July Heartwood is home to a number of species of ground nesting birds which are obviously vulnerable to disturbance. Some areas are therefore marked ‘wildlife only’ and it’s requested that dogs are kept on leads – the arboretum is one such area. There’s plenty of space to run free on the rest of the route (apart from when crossing the roads!) with the option to extend your walk on Nomansland if needed.
Alternatively click on the following link (to view directions on the map select ‘menu’, ‘directions’) – https://www.plotaroute.com/route/1053831
1. Starting at Nomansland car park (Ferrers Lane, St Albans, AL4 9FH), follow the well-trodden grass footpath that leads towards the B651 (the main road between Wheathampstead and Sandridge), walking parallel to Ferrers Lane.
2. By the red poo bin, cross Ferrers Lane onto the opposite side of Nomansland and turn right towards the main road.
3. Take care crossing the main road and re-join the footpath marked by the wooden bridleway signpost.
4. Follow the narrow path through the small wooded area (which in winter can get very muddy) and you’ll soon come to the ‘Welcome to Heartwood Forest’ sign.
5. Continue straight ahead for approximately 25 meters then turn right where the grass has been cut short into a wide path leading down towards a wooden gate – between May and August either side of this path is full of beautiful wildflowers.
6. Cross the road and pass through the next wooden gate on the opposite side leading into the arboretum.
7. Head to the information board to get your bearings. There are plenty of route options, we tend to go straight down the Grand Ride but you could follow the perimeter and zig zag back. There are benches dotted around and a large memorial stone with a lovely inscription of an extract from Walt Whitman’s poem ‘Song of Myself’ from his ‘Leaves of Grass’ collection – see if you can spot it.
8. When you’re ready to head back, follow one of the paths which lead to the wooden gate used to enter the arboretum. Cross back over the road and retrace your footsteps back to Nomansland car park.
There are no toilets, but the very popular Wicked Lady pub and restaurant is a 2-minute drive away. Dogs are welcome in the bar area and large outside terrace, just not in the main restaurant. Food can be eaten within the dog-friendly areas – you just need to order your food at the bar if you’re sat inside.
Nomansland Car Park, Ferrers Lane, St Albans, AL4 9FH
The Wicked Lady, Nomansland, St Albans, AL4 8EL
Disclaimer – This route was correct at the time of writing. It is a walker’s own responsibility to be adequately prepared and assess the safety and suitability of the walk for your needs. If you notice any inaccuracies during your walk please don’t hesitate to contact My Dog Life email@example.com so appropriate amendments can be made. Thank you and Happy Walking.