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Explore St Helen's
(Average user rating: 5 unrated 4.3/5)


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

A really lovely place. Quite remote with plenty of parking. Toilets are available. Apart from the extensive woodland to walk in there is a really quaint little church there, which is open to visit. Probably one of the nicer locations in a really good forest.

John Murray, 28/Aug/2018
5 Stars 5 Stars

Visited with the grandchildren the facilities were great and we has a beautiful day in the sun and water. The ice cream lady in the Rossi van was very friendly. Her lovely fresh soft ice cream was really welcome on what must've been one of the hottest days of the year!

Olafur Eugene Denbeigh, 7/Jul/2018
5 Stars 5 Stars

Absolutely lovely place, is fishing allowed on the river?

John Stevenson, 21/Jun/2018

We are pleased you like St Helen's. It is a lovely place to spot wildlife and discover the forest on the 5 mile walking trail. Fishing on the river requires a fishing permit but certain sections of the river may be reserved for the village. Check with the Environment Agency who issue fishing permits.

Forestry Commission Response
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Last updated: 10th July 2018

Help us take care of your forest

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.