High Street | Sandridge, St Albans AL4 9DQ, England
One of the newest country parks in England, Heartwood Forest is situated just to the North East of St Albans. Once complete, the plan is that Heartwood will be the largest man-made forest on record. Since plans were drawn up in 2008 by the Woodland Trust much has gone into planting native tree species across about 860 acres of land.
Right by the village of Sandridge, Heartwood used to be agricultural land, and is now growing to incorporate about 44 acres of existing woodland as well as the newly planted trees. Tens of thousands of volunteers have been involved in the project, planting more than half a million trees thus far as well as sowing seeds in the wild meadow land.
Visitors can expect to see plenty of wildlife. There are a wide variety of owls, rabbits and small birds now live in Heartwood. Badger setts and fox holes have also been discovered on the site. The current woodland is full of bluebells during the spring, and in summer, the surrounding fields are awash with colourful poppies.
Throughout Heartwood Forest there is a network of public footpaths and two bridleways. As you expect with most undeveloped areas of the countryside, most of the paths are unsurfaced and can quickly get muddy when wet. There is a short, surfaced, loop from the car park which is suitable for people of most physical ability levels.
Archaeological digs carried out at Heartwood Forest revealed several interesting features like depressions that could have been pits, old tracks and internal banks. Together with buried remains in the area, these indicate human activity from the prehistoric period onwards. Trenches have also showed there may be evidence of late Iron Age and Romano-British activity at the Heartwood site.
Although only a new forest, there is real diversity of species found at Heartwood. So far there have been 87 species of bird and 27 species of butterfly been spotted, with 62 species of small mammal also found in the area. These surveys are carried out regularly by volunteers from the Hertfordshire Natural History Society and help the Woodland Trust to identify populations of wildlife during ongoing changes to the site.