Introduction: This extensive, Forestry Commission-owned site provides a relaxing countryside retreat for walking, cycling and horseriding; just a few miles from the hustle and bustle of Horsham and Crawley. It is steeped in cultural history; with the 6th century French hermit, St Leonard, reportedly slaying a fearsome dragon on the site!
Location: East of Horsham, accessed by car from Hammerpond Road.
What can I do? Walk, ride or cycle on the many forest tracks. Play amongst the trees with children. Find out about the fascinating history of the forest - hermits and dragons. Join the Friends of St Leonard's Forest and become a conservation volunteer.
What can I see? Watch for butterflies such as the comma and peacock in sunny rides in the summer. Look for woodland birds including the rare wood warbler and lesser spotted woodpecker.
What can I hear? Listen for the nightjars churring in the late evening sky as well as the songs of rare birds such as redstarts and wood warblers.
Information available: Three site interpretation boards help you to explore the interesting history and conservation of St Leonard's Forest.
Grid reference: TQ205299(OS Map)
OS map: 134 (Explorer, 1:25,000)
Opening times: All year
Terrain: Generally flat or gently sloping, with steep slopes to the east and west of the site. Good trails for walking throughout the year.
Nearest train station: Faygate (mainline) 1.5 miles
Nearest NCN route: Route 20 - 2.6 miles
Where can I park? Roost Hole car park to the south of the Forest on Hammerpond Road.
Where can I get further information? Forestry Commission website
Contact the Friends of St Leonard's Forests Forest for information about volunteering. Use our interactive map to find the site location and other places to go in the area.
Site Enhancements 2009 - 2012
For ecological improvements, open, heathy clearings were created on ride edges by removing conifers and scrub. Extensive rhododendron removal was undertaken and the equally invasive bracken was controlled in several areas. Also, temporary fencing was erected in the gill woodland area to allow natural regeneration to take place.
The car park and main access track to Mick Mills Cross were improved, hence making visitor access to and around the site much easier in bad weather.
An in-depth archaeological survey found out fascinating information about the Forest's uses over hundreds of years. Being a former medieval hunting forest, it was never as wooded as it is nowadays. It was obviously once very important for rabbit farming, with many rabbit warrens still evident and one of the site's old names being The Great Warren. Especially at the northern end, it was also heavily mined for iron ore for local furnaces. Use of a LiDAR survey, undertaken by another project in the Weald Forest Ridge LPS, was central to this survey.
Lastly, 3 interpretation boards were installed on site - to provide visitors with more information about the Forest's history, ecology and landscape - and a stunning chainsaw-sculpted dragon seat installed: alluding to the myth of the St Leonard's dragon, slain by the eponymous 6th century hermit.