Forestry Commission logo

Discovery Pass

Discover the
freedom of
the forest…
every day of the year…

Get free parking, discounts on events and much more with an annual Discovery Pass


The ultimate free guide to our forests

Forest Xplorer running on iPhone and Android devices

Explore St Helen's
(Average user rating: 4 unrated 4/5)


The Little Ouse Valley between Brandon and Thetford has been designated a Forest Nature Reserve by the Forestry Commission in recognition of its importance to wildlife.

Along the valley, wetland areas of alder carr and fen, poplars, damp grazing meadows and reedbeds support a rich variety of plants, insects and birds. St Helen's picnic site, next to the river, is a good base from which to explore.

Following the Orange Walk you will pass a number of informative panels, some of general interest and some with more historical and ecological interest. An impressive display of snowdrops can be seen at Santon Downham in the early spring in the woodland opposite the village shop. 

St Helen's Picnic Site Consultation

St Helen's has seen a steady increase in visitors over the last few years which is resulting in rising costs to maintain the site.  To ensure facilities and heritage are managed to a good standard the Forestry Commission need to look at how we can sustainably care for St Helen's through either reducing expenditure by removing facilities or bringing in income to sustain them.

Before any decisions are made, the Forestry Commission want to hear the views of all visitors to St Helen's.  You can do this by visiting our online discussion forum which will run until the 15th January 2017.

There will also be two drop in sessions to share ideas on Sunday 18th December 2016  and Saturday 7th January 2017 10am – 2pm  at the Classroom, Forestry Commission Office car park, Santon Downham, IP27 0TJ


What do other visitors say?

A beautiful place and so lovely to have access to the water to dip your toes, wouldn't mind paying a small fee to use the carpark if it helped maintain the toilets etc

Violet, 10/Nov/2016

Thank you for your feedback. You may want to take part in the consultation for St Helen's at

Forestry Commission Response

Pleasant little find .

helen essex, 11/Sep/2016
2 Stars 2 Stars

The female toilets are over flowing and have been for weeks once it was out of the door. No soap or loo roll. On a hot day the rubbish containers outside are over flowing. A real shame as its a beautiful place this spoils it.

Anonymous, 30/Aug/2016

Thank you for letting us know. The toilets are currently undergoing repairs and we are investigating why the rubbish bins have not been emptied by our contractor. The Thetford Ranger was on site today removing the rubbish.

Forestry Commission Response
More user comments

Please tell us about your visit

Please email us at if you have an enquiry, a complaint or would like a personal reply to your comments.

Email addresses will not be shown

Last updated: 24th November 2016

Be a forest hero

Get the latest news, information & offers

Sign up for our emails

What's Here?

  • Dogs on lead
  • Easy Access
  • Toliets
  • Horse riding
  • The Forestry Commission has a Open Access policy for horse riding. As a consequence there are very few way-marked trails in the forest. O.S.Explorer map 229 shows areas owned by the Forestry Commission and open to the public to ride. Deboxing areas can be found at the east end of the Harling Drove (FR23) and north of the railway line at Santon Downham. The areas north of the railway line are best suited to horse riding as this is away from the concentration of visitors using High Lodge and the cycling trails. Please observe all signs especially those relating to 'Forest Operation'.
  • Parking
  • Off of the A134
  • Picnic
  • You are welcome to picnic here but please do not BBQ.
  • Walking
  • The 5 mile Orange walk (short cut available) can also be accessed from Santon Downham. It has interpretation around the walk on some of the fascinating history and wildlife of the area. A map of the walk around St Helens and Santon Downham is available from Forest Office (office hours only), or you could dowload a copy before you visit.
More about what's here


OS Grid ref: TL820880
Postcode: IP27 0TJ

Get directions


Nicky Russell

0300 067 4546

Opening & Parking

Opening Times:
Dawn to Dusk
Off of the A134

PDF Downloads

Useful sites

Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification certifiedForest Stewardship Council certified

England's Woods and Forests are cared for by Forest Enterprise England, an agency of the Forestry Commission.