What to do and where to park: The ultimate guide to Thetford Forest
- Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015
With a glut of activities on offer and a vast array of magnificent trails, Thetford Forest is rightfully one of the region's most popular attractions.
Whether you're from the area and planning a day trip, or visiting for a few days from further afield, we've put together the ultimate guide to a jewel in Norfolk and Suffolk's crown.
Where is Thetford Forest and how do I get there?
Thetford Forest is predominantly located in the south west corner of Norfolk.
But, by its very nature, the UK's largest man-made woodland also straddles a significant part of north west Suffolk.
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Travelling within Norfolk, you're looking at a 40-minute drive from Norwich, although you can reach the nearest edge in half an hour.
From King's Lynn your journey time will be more like 45-50 minutes and from Great Yarmouth just north of an hour.
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Bury St Edmunds is only half an hour away and Ipswich an hour.
Getting there by rail, your best bet is to alight at Thetford or Brandon stations, from which a short taxi ride would get you to the forest's central site, High Lodge.
Thetford Forest is hard to reach via mainstream bus services, although some companies do organise coach trips.
Where can I park at Thetford Forest?
There is plenty of parking at High Lodge, but it does get extremely busy during the summer season and at weekends.
It's probably best to avoid arriving between 11am and 2pm, or there is a very realistic chance you'll have to turn around and come another time.
To avoid disappointment it's well worth going online and booking a space for a full day visit, which can be done up to seven days in advance.
Twelve spots are accessible, while coaches and minibuses are welcomed.
Cash is not currently being taken, including for parking. You can pay via card or by downloading the Glide app.
For cars it's £12.50 for the day.
Away from High Lodge there are various smaller car parks dotted throughout the forest, usually accommodating walking trails.
Brandon Country Park, the Lynford Stag and Hockham Picnic Site are popular but have plenty of spaces.
What is there to do in Thetford Forest?
High Lodge is undoubtedly where you'll find most of the action.
For those looking to explore while taking in the stunning surroundings, there are five walking trails of varying lengths.
For cyclists, there are three routes including the sweeping and dipping Lime Burner recommended for experienced mountain bikers.
When it comes to other activities you're spoilt for choice at High Lodge.
Its best-known attraction is Go Ape, a fun-filled opportunity for thrill-seekers to navigate a suspended obstacle course among the treetops.
With a series of zip lines, nets, rope ladders and swings, the 'Challenge' course is best for adults looking to bring out their inner daredevils. The 'Adventure' course is a better option for children or the whole family.
Go Ape also offers a Segway experience along one of the trails through the woods.
With archery, axe throwing and wilderness courses you're unlikely to get bored at High Lodge, while bungee trampolines and zorbing are on site during weekends and school and bank holidays.
Younger kids can enjoy the den building area, enjoy the helter-skelter tunnel slide, make their own music at the sound trail, play on giant play equipment or climb up into the treehouse to hide out in the canopy.
Elsewhere, the possibilities are endless in terms of trails at Thetford Forest.
Dozens of roads in the area have several spots where you can simply park your car and head into the woods. It's probably impossible to walk them all in a lifetime!
It's well worth exploring council-owned Brandon Country Park, with its open heathland, green forests, beautiful lawns and a lake.
Do we need to bring our own bikes to Thetford Forest?
Whilst you could bring your own bikes, fortunately there are some available for hire.
They can be rented from Bike Art, a business based on the High Lodge site.
Booking in advance is highly recommended and can be done by calling 01842 810090. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
While Covid rules remain, conditions apply such as a maximum of six people or two households per booking.
And what's more, wheelchair users can now enjoy the wilds of the forest following the launch of a unique transporter bike, also available from Bike Art.
It allows those for whom mobility is restricted to remain in their own chair, while another person pedals the motor-assisted machine.
Are there places to eat and drink at Thetford Forest?
At High Lodge you'll find a decent-sized cafe in the main area of the visitor centre, with a number of picnic benches outside.
On busy days it might be an idea to bring along your own food to enjoy in one of the many dedicated picnic areas.
Brandon Country Park has the Copper Beech Tearoom which serves breakfast, a light lunch or afternoon tea.
Can I go on holiday to Thetford Forest?
Despite being separated from the best-known area of woodland, cabin stays are available in Thorpe Forest.
This is a few miles east of Thetford but still officially a part of Thetford Forest.
Each cabin is found in leafy setting, deep in the countryside and beside the River Thet.
They have underfloor heating, log burners, their own private hot tubs and stunning views.
Visit forestholidays.co.uk to book.
What's the history of Thetford Forest?
Thetford Forest is the largest man-made pine forest in the UK and covers an area about the size of a city.
Established in the 1920s by the Forestry Commission, it forms a large part of the history of the Brecks landscape and contains nearly 19,000 hectares of trees.
It is a habitat to a range of wildlife and has a large population of deer and muntjac, as well as a wide variety of birds.
It is nationally-designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its birds, plants, terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates and geology.
Thetford Forest also produces timber for people and businesses across the nation, providing employment for foresters, contractors, sawmillers and hauliers, as well as tourism-related businesses.