Nestling within sight and sound of the M25 to the east of Potters Bar is an ancient woodland regarded as the best remaining part of the Tudor hunting ground, the Enfield Chase.
This last authentic bit of dense woodland shows what Enfield Chase was originally like, indeed what much of southeast England was like. Trent Park is the largest preserved part of it, although less wooded with large open spaces. What makes Fir and Pond Woods nature reserve so special is the untouched quality that feels rather surreal with the hum of the motorway in the background.
You enter from Coopers Lane Road where there are a few parking spaces in a lay-by near the entrance. On a beautiful sunny Sunday there were just two other cars and we passed a several dog walkers, but our nine-year old was the only child. This was surprising as it’s ideal for kids with trees to climb and some huge logs for “logwalking” as our daughter calls it. There’s also a wonderfully witchy looking den in the heart of the wood.
The size is a manageable 71 acres (29 hectares) with three clearly signposted trails from 0.8 miles to 1.5 miles, so easily covered by smaller legs. We broke our walk with a picnic on one of the few benches on the edge of the wood, overlooking the meadow with the M25 in the distance and Enfield Ridgeway just beyond. It was interesting trying to imagine the scale of the old hunting ground as, thanks to the Green Belt, much of what we could see remains countryside.
The wood boasts many veteran oaks and hornbeams and an enormous old holly tree, along with excellent meadow and wetland habitats supporting a wide range of wildlife. Fir Wood is closest to Coopers Lane Road, quickly passing through it to reach the main part, Pond Wood. After a few minutes you reach the meadow dotted with huge anthills and with a (friendly) flock of Shetland sheep who keep the growth under control. They clearly found us fascinating and in full Shaun the Sheep mode really amused our daughter. Once back in the wood it was very atmospheric walking in the dappled light alongside fern-lined Turkey Brook before crossing it to take a look at Old Pond, a medieval fish pond with viewing platforms. According the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust who manage the Woods, the pond was used for fish farming from about 1337, but is now gradually reverting to marshland.
We also saw plenty of different funghi and notices requesting that they are left intact as a survey is currently taking place. (However, these woods are paradise for foragers and my eagle-eyed cep-loving husband thinks they could be rich pickings in the right conditions.) Fir and Pond Woods are ideal for a weekend stroll and you could include a scenic drive around neighbouring Northaw. Really special.
Fir and Pond Woods, Potters Bar, Hertfordshire EN6 4DG