Find a woodland workout near you

Kirstie Smith / 23 July 2012

You might well be surprised at the huge range of activities on offer.

If the thought of the gym leaves you cold, you might find the prospect of healthy exercise in your local forest more appealing.

The good news is that almost all of us in the UK live within 30 minutes of a Forestry Commission woodland. All over the country there are a range of walking and cycling trails through forests; you can find the ones nearest you, together with details of the many and various activities on offer the Forestry Commission website or you can download the free app for iPhone and Android.

As well as the traditional pursuits of walking and cycling there are some more unusual ways that you can get out and explore which keep you fit, active and most importantly having fun.

Nordic walking

This popular fitness technique incorporates specially designed walking poles to work the upper part of the body as well as the legs, making it a full body workout. Nordic walking was first developed in Finland in the 1950s to help cross-country skiers maintain their fitness. It is suitable for people of all abilities and can be sociable too as you can walk in groups. There are several regular Nordic Walking groups at different Forestry Commission forests including Haldon Forest Park near Exeter, the Forest of Dean, Alice Holt near Farnham and Bedgebury Pinetum in Kent. Details for all of these forests can be found by visiting the Forestry Commission website and typing the name of the forest in the search field.


For anyone looking to try a whole new experience, a self balancing electric segway could be just the thing. It looks rather like a large-wheeled, self-propelled scooter and it’s the latest in green technology. It’s a brilliant way to get around and enjoy the forest, and great if you find long walks tiring. Segways are available via Go Ape at a number of forests including Sherwood Pines near Mansfield, Thetford Forest in East Anglia and Moors Valley Country Park in Dorset. Details and costs can be found on their website. Segway Southwest operate at Haldon Forest Park near Exeter; for details go to their website

Swinging through the trees

For adrenaline freaks, Go Ape is a treetop assault course set amongst the trees so you do need a head for heights. Operating at many Forestry Commission sites, Go Ape is a fun for the whole family and gives you the chance to see the forest from a whole new perspective – up high! See the Go Ape website for details and costs.

Electric bikes

Alice Holt near Farnham is one of the places that has electric bikes which are part of the Electric Bike network. They’re ideal for anyone who’d like a bit of extra help up hills or over long distances. More information about the network including the costs at the Electric Bikes Network.

Sculpture trails and exhibitions in woodlands

Art lovers can also combine their passion with getting active at many Forestry Commission forests. There are various sculpture trails: for example at Grizedale Forest in Cumbria there are over 60 sculptures throughout the forest with many accessible from the waymarked trails. Grizedale also has a free art exhibition from June this year until September showing the work of new artists working in the area; visit their website.

The Forest of Dean also has a great sculpture trail and all the sculptures are inspired by the forest, its trees, its wildlife and industrial past. They are mostly constructed from natural material from the Dean including wood, stone and iron. More details can be found at the Forest of Dean website.

At Haldon Forest Park near Exeter you’ll find the Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World which holds a range of exhibitions. Details of exhibitions at are at the Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World website

Good woods and forests for seeing wildlife

Or if wildlife spotting is your thing, then forests are for you. They are home to a range of wildlife including birds of prey, deer, rare butterflies and dormice. Particular woods are hotspots for certain creatures, such as Whinlatter Forest near Keswick, which is home to the Lake District Osprey project and has a wonderful open air viewing point. See the Whinlatter Forest website for more details.

With so many ways to get active you need never give another thought to the gym so what are you waiting for? Get out and active – they’re your forests so enjoy them.

Find a wood near you

Go to VisitWoods to find your nearest wood, featuring woods owned by the National Trust, RSPB, Woodland Trust, the Forestry Commission and Wildlife Trusts.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.