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Explore St Helen's
(Average user rating: 4 unrated 3.9/5)


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 Report

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 making any decisions the Forestry Commission are hosting a second online discussion forum  to give summer visitors an opportunity to feedback.  This will run until the 17th of September 2017. 

The Consultation Report and next steps from the first consultation in Autumn 2016 is still available to read. The final Consultation Report considering all feedback from both consultation will be published on the 29th of September 2017.


What do other visitors say?

5 Stars 5 Stars

I think a small parking fee, rather then removing the Toilets I live in the village and its a lovely location.

yolande Gough, 19/Jan/2017

Thank you for your feedback. A report will be available on St Helen's Picnic Site webpage regarding the feedback we have received and our next steps on the 26th of January

Forestry Commission Response

What is the date for the drop in? Here it says Sat 7 Jan, but banners say Sun 8 Jan.

Imogen, 6/Jan/2017

Apologies for the error on the web page. The drop in was on the 8th of Jan. A member of FC staff was present on the Saturday incase anyone turned up. The online consultation is still live until the 15th of January if you wish to add feedback.

Forestry Commission Response
2 Stars 2 Stars

I think a small fee to park is justified, as long as it does not get as expensive as High Lodge which is just too much for young families and smacks of elitism which is a problem with current Forest Enterprise thinking.

Martyn Eyles, 18/Dec/2016

Thank you for your comments, There is currently an online consultation running until 15th January regarding the future of St Helens picnic site.

Forestry Commission Response
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Last updated: 25th September 2017

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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

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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.