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  • Writer's pictureKelly

The best Forest walks in the North East.

Forest walks North East
Castle Eden Dene

We absolutely love a good forest walk, and here in the North East we have some fantastic forest walks to choose from. We have always had a love for the outdoors and luckily our three boys would rather be out exploring than playing on video games. We have been all over the place in the North East over the years and have collected a list of some of, what we consider to be, the best forest walks, especially with kids.

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You can also make it extra fun on your forest walk with a Scavenger hunt, a treasure collect and even some bug and bird spotting. One of the things the boys enjoy doing is hunting for mushrooms/toadstools and we take photos and draw them. Never touch a plant or mushroom if you don't know what it is as they can be extremely dangerous.

The List

Simonside Woods

We visited Simonside for the first time a few years ago in Autumn and it was just magical. The colours dotted around us were like something out of this world. We have used this forest to teach the boys about trees as part of our Home Ed, and we have done a few bug and scavenger hunts here too.

We have visited a few times since our first visit, however our last visit was a bad one and we ended up driving straight past, due to it being so so busy and I mean busy. Cars everywhere, people everywhere and litter everywhere. This was just after the first lockdown had been lifted, so I am hoping it was just a fad. If you do go to a forest though, please take away your litter.

Free parking, 24 hour access, no facilities.

More info HERE

Hamsterley Forest

We really enjoy going to Hamsterley forest, it is vast and has so many things to do that will keep any family member busy. You can watch for Dippers and Wagtails down by the river and, if you are lucky enough, you may spot a Kingfisher. You can head out on a Gruffalo hunt, head along to the waterfall and relax or you could head out on one of the longer set walks but make sure you take a photo of the map first to avoid any wrong turns. You may be able to grab maps from the visitors centre, but we usually just snap a photo of the maps on the boards. You will also find many many bike tracks all at different grades for different levels of experience. If you don't fancy walking far you can also try the forest drive.

Visitors centre, coffee van, café and toilets are all available. Parking is paid for on the way out at the machine and is £6 for the full day, although it is cheaper if you only park for an hour. Please check the website for up to date info. HERE

Chopwell Woods

We have been visiting Chopwell for years and love going for a walk here, the dogs love a good run about and if you go further than the main carpark it's never that busy. I am pretty sure we have walked every route here now, however we will still be going for regular walks.

You could also try a spot of Geocaching or one of the many trails. There are no facilities here.

The forest is open 24hours with access to the main car park. However there is no lighting. No parking charges here either. It is worth keeping an eye on events here because they have biking events on and I would suggest you stay away as it gets stupid busy. Find out more HERE

Belsay hall, Castle and Grounds.

I Love Belsay. Have had many days out here ever since the boys were teeny tiny. We have enjoyed long summer walks, picnics and even freezing and wet weather here. It is worth a visit throughout the seasons. In the Summer they usually have activities for the kids to enjoy.

Take a look around the old hall, take a long forest walk down to the castle and then back again. Take the time to look about when you are walking through the tree because you will be amazed at what you can find. We have found all kinds of weird and wonderful creatures including a Newt! Tea rooms, gorgeous gift shop with amazing jams and chutneys, toilets and car parking all available. I expect all English Heritage properties will be pre booked only for quite some time. If you leave with time to spare check out Bolam lake which is just up the road. More info HERE

Hawthorn Dene

Hawthorn Dene is just an amazing place to go for a walk. We love heading here to blow off the cobwebs. I would say it is not for the faint hearted as it can be steep in places. You can get down to the beach from two different points either some extremely steep steps that I would advise against or down a little bank. I would advise you wear wellies as it can be muddy and slippery. Various paths to take, few info boards dotted about with maps on.

We have spent full days exploring here and you can find a range of plants, trees, birds and other wildlife here. It is just a magical place to walk and wander and get lost in nature.

Limited parking, no toilets and sometimes there is a small horse box selling drinks and cakes.

Find out more HERE

Castle Eden Dene

Such a lovely place to go for a walk, so many trees about and you can find a wide range of wildlife here. The only thing to know with this one is it is quite steep in lots of places and I was slipping with my all terrain hiking boots. You can choose a few different trails. The last time we did the Squirrel trail, you just follow the markers. As you pull up in the carpark you can find a giant chalk board which has details of what you can spot for the time of year in the woods. Café on site and toilets, although these were both closed the last time we visited (after the first lockdown) You can easily spend the day here. Look out for the bridge, it makes some great photo opportunities. Bylaws are in place which are * No Horses, *No cycling, *Nothing to be removed from the woods, *No firearms, *No litter to be left behind. Dog control orders in place too. Find out more HERE

Durham Wildlife Trusts Low Barns

Oh what a place to head for a walk, This is high up on my list of places to head when we are looking to get out for a few hours, although even though it is stated as open on the website it was closed the last time we went. The police recently put a notice out asking people not to park on the main road because it was causing a nuisance. So please check with DWT first before you head there.

We have some great memories from here, holding tiny frogs as they jumped into our hands, spotting an Egret, saying hello to the wild ponies, photographing Dragonflies. It is just a great place to go regardless of the time of year there's always loads to see. This is one of the best places to go for bug, scavenger hunts. Check out there Christmas Trail next time it is on too. Find out more HERE

Watergate forest park

I am going to be honest here, we have only been here once. Every time in the past we have tried to visit it has just been so so busy. However we managed to get out recently and it was pretty quiet so we took the opportunity to have a wander. It is a fantastic place to go for a walk. Few paths to choose from, some do go off track slightly that some may find difficult. We headed along the stream which was all tree roots, so do be careful. I was quite surprised at how clean and tidy the place was too and the dog owners were picking up after the dogs! In Sunderland lately, this seems to be a rarity. We didn't go down the bottom end but I am pretty sure there was a play park. Cycle trails and Horse trails we didn't spot any toilets here but would seem strange given how big the place is and how busy it gets. Parking is free.

Find out more HERE

Cragside NT

I had to add Cragside, it has some of the most picturesque walks in Northumberland in my opinion. I love having a long walk around Cragside house and grounds and finishing the day relaxing by the Lake watching the dragonflies dance. It is worth noting that you will easily spend a day here and still not see everything. Choose from various walks around the forest, lake, quarry and even a labyrinth. Great playpark for the kids, den building and toilets available. Closer to the house you can find a café. Large Parking facilities.

Find out more HERE

Doxford Park

For a lovely morning walk, Doxford Park is the place to be. Although it is not the biggest of places it is very pretty. We love visiting here on our local days out as it is close to our house.

Loads of spring flowers out at the minute which makes it gorgeous. You can find the Secret Garden which is the old walled kitchen garden for Doxford house. This is usually bursting with Raspberries but had recently been cut back. The boys love it for a game of hide and seek when its quiet. No toilets but you can walk round the corner and be in Morrisons.

Find out more HERE

Backhouse Park

Another Sunderland entry, Backhouse park in my opinion is under rated. It always gets a bad reputations for kids hanging around yet we have been hundreds of times over the years and never seen any kinds hanging around. That is a thing of the past. I love visiting this park and we are lucky to have it on our doorstep. Few different paths you can walk in here but again it is not the biggest of parks so you could combine this one with Doxford park. No facilities here but you are 5 minutes away from the city centre.

Find out more HERE

Howick Hall and Gardens

We have been annual pass holders for Howick for years now and love visiting throughout the year to see the difference in the plants and flowers. Check out the Snowdrop festival throughout Spring. There is a lovely little church you can go into and they always have a few bits you can purchase to help support the church. Also a delicious tea room steeped in History. Find out more HERE

Chillingham Castle

I know this one is probably unexpected, however I love the woodland walks here. The trees are magnificent and Huge! If you go to the castle make sure you check out the walk through the woodland carpark and the woodland walk down by the stream. Find out more HERE

Cox Green

Is one of my favourite walks in Sunderland, you can easily spend the day walking in the area. Lots to see from the Victorian Viaduct to the many species of birds relaxing at the edge of the river. Try and get here throughout the seasons as it is just so different yet beautiful. Sturdy footwear is a must as it can be uneven and slippery. You can also find a lovely little horse box with outdoor seating area, where you can enjoy a drink or slice of cake.

Find out more HERE

Lambton Park Walks

I have to tell you firstly that you are better off keeping an eye on their Facebook page because it is closed at the minute. We were lucky enough to wander the first weekend it opened and it is a gorgeous place for a walk, although no actual paths so it wasn't recommended to anyone who needed easy access. BUT, I have heard they are putting in paths. Which will be great. Car park available, no toilets. Find out more HERE

Kielder Forest

Kielder is Epic, it is huge. You wont get round the full place in one day. However you can do various routes. You can visit the reservoir and enjoy one of the many walks leading off here, you can visit the castle and enjoy a walk in the latest trail for kids or you could play pooh sticks from one of the bridges and get lost in minotaur maze. Endless amounts of fun here. Lots of biking tracks to ride, bike hire available here too and toilets dotted around at various points. Find out more HERE

Auckland Castle Deer Park

Out and about in Bishop Auckland? Check out the Auckland Castle Deer park. It is a lovely walk around and some pretty trees here too. Work is currently being done to the Castle but you can still enjoy a walk around. Perfect for a picnic in the warmer months too. Bit uneven in places and steep. No toilets or Parking but it is worth the walk from the Car park in the town.

Find out more HERE

Hedley Hall Woods

This one we found by accident and I am so glad we found it. Almost like it is all been taken over by nature it is so pretty, no pathway but honestly it is so worth walking through the grass. You can walk round in a big circle which will bring you back to the carpark and will take you around an hour to complete but I suggest take your time, do a scavenger hunt and watch the birds. On our last visit we found Hazelnuts, ash trees, Buzzards and so many more fabulous wildlife. This is one of our new favourites from walks and I can see us spending quite a bit of time here in the Summer on picnics etc. We raise butterflies every year and this year I think we might set them free here, as the wild flower meadow is just stunning.

Find out more HERE

Holystone Woods

This is another woodland area we found by chance, we were out driving and came across a carpark so we got and and had a wander. It was a lovely walk full of trees and tons of Pinecones to collect and study. You can walk from here to the old well which is pretty too.

No facilities here and I am pretty sure the closest ones are quite far away but it is worth a look if you are in the area. Find out more HERE

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