Hamsterley Forest is the largest forest in County Durham, and takes a little less than an hour and a half to get there from Sunderland. This makes it an ideal spot for a weekend day out, or midweek since most people are furloughed right now!
The Important Bits
POSTCODE: DL13 3NL
The open hours are always dusk till dawn, but at this time of year, this of course means its a lot more limited than the summer. However, even in the colder months the toilets are open, as well as the takeaway food and drink outlets which is open 10am-4pm 7 days a week. Also, the play areas are open too, which makes it a perfect place if you have young people, especially when paired with the Gruffalo trail!
Parking can be a little bit of an issue. I cannot stress enough the importance of arriving early as the car park fills up very quickly. Parking itself is a little expensive. However the park itself is free, so I presume this is why. Here are all the costs (more info here):
Up to 1 hour: £2
All Day: £6
(Bank Holidays): £10
You must remember your car registration plate as this is what you need to pay, also, you do so at the end of your visit.
What To Do
There are four walking trails in total. There is the Riverside trail (or the Gruffalo trail), which is the shortest and perhaps most popular which is 1.5 miles (blue markers). There is also the Bedburn Valley trail which is 2.5 miles (yellow markers), the Spurlswood Valley trail at 4.5 miles (red markers) and finally the Three Becks trail, which is also 4.5 miles (black markers).
Picnic spots are hard to come by when you’re out of the main carpark area. There are a couple dotted around but not many. So if you are wanting to have a picnic, and I highly recommend you do, bare this in mind. The main area of course gets very busy especially in the summer!
You are also allowed to have disposable BBQs in the picnic areas and car parks. As long as they aren’t directly placed on the benches, and completely contained, they are permitted. But remember that the forest is a high risk area for wild fires, should something go wrong!
We have visited several times this year and generally the shorter walks and of course the area around the car park are busiest places. So if you are prepared for it, I’d recommend doing the longer walks for safety and social distancing reasons. Also, if you do so you get the best views!
Also be mindful when driving through the car park and when walking on the trails that the area is very popular with cyclists and they will come flying round corners! I am not at all interested in mountain biking (only flat relaxed cycling along pretty boardwalks in hot countries), but if you are then Hamsterley is a great place for you! There are 4 biking routes, and you can find all that information HERE!
Hamsterley Forest is a perfect place to escape the noise of everyday life, and I highly recommend visiting, in any season!
Stay Safe and Happy Adventuring!