London parks are great, but you may feel the need to escape the crowds and go somewhere where you can be more in tune with nature. Luckily, there are some less known places within the M25, for a dog walk in a proper and quiet woodland without leaving London! Among these there is Joyden’s Wood, in the South East London borough of Bexley, on the border of Greater London (not too far from Dartford): a huge 135-hectare (333-acre) ancient woodland that is full of history and beauty.
A Dog Walk in Joyden’s Wood
Trails and paths
There are two main routes in Joyden’s Wood: a red route, called Faesten Dic Trail and a blue route called Woodland Walk. The Faesten Dic trail takes its name from the remains of the mile-long Faesten Dic (which is the Saxon name for Strong Dyke), a Saxon-built defensive structure that served to keep out the Romano-British Londoners.
In addition, there are lots of paths and tracks venturing deeper in the woods. In fact, not knowing the woods we found it is quite easy to feel a bit disoriented (and the only map we found on the way was the one placed at the main entrance) and while the main trails were marked, we didn’t find any signage apart from that at the first fork we encountered. If you are familiar with the woods, we don’t doubt that you won’t need any indication (and you’ll probably be laughing reading we got slightly lost!).
In the West part of the woods there are some bridleways, so you may encounter horse riders (as we did). On the tracks more into the woods, we found some artefacts (jumps etc) that suggest downhill riders use them for some cycle fun.
We discovered the woods thanks to Tig and Spanish rescue mutt Mus – they give an expert local tip for making the most of your visit and suggest you enter the woods via Ferndell Avenue (rather than from the main entrance on Summerhouse Drive) and, at the sign board, take the red route anti clockwise to get you into the woods much more quickly, and say that this is more picturesque than doing it clockwise.
What to see at Joyden’s Wood
Nature. Beautiful ferns, huge oak trees, tall pines, majestic oaks, and then sicamores, birches and more, can mesmerise. In Spring you can find bluebells and lilies. In the woodland you can also spot mushrooms (some of which are highly toxic).
The varied paths. Joyden’s Wood does not develop on flat terrain. You will walk up and down small hills and valleys, which makes it an even more interesting walk. The small tracks in the woods also give you the chance to get lost in nature.
History bites. Joyden’s Wood is an ancient woodland and this makes it full of history: there you can find the remains of the “Strong Dyke” built in the 400s AD by the Saxons, some medioeval dwellings and what is thought to be a line of craters left by World War II bombing (you can read more about it on the Woodland Trust’s official page).
What we loved
The peace. One of the things you will immediately notice when arriving at Joyden’s Wood is the quiet. There are no trafficked roads/motorways nearby, meaning that for once you won’t hear any other sound than the birds’ chirping and the earth under your and your dog’s feet. I loved this. Also, we met only few people (all dog walkers! apart from a group of horse riders) during our walk, which was a welcome change in comparison with the walks in our local area.
The landscape. I was particularly struck by the plants and trees at Joyden’s Wood, which are quite different from those of the average London park. The woodland is ancient and you can tell so from some impressive old huge trees, including one near the first fork. The ferns are an enchanging sight, and so are the tall trees. We also spotted a few maritime pines that reminded me of my Summers in Italy by the sea. Joyden’s Wood is also known for its fields of bluebells, we didn’t spot any (I think that the season had already ended) but apparently at the right time of the year you can find beautiful carpets of those lilac flowers.
The tracks immersed into nature. We started our walk following one of the trails, but then decided to explore the woods off-trail, we followed the tracks and paths and loved exploring some areas of the woodland, up and down hill.
The clean air. Coming from Central London, as you step into Joyden’s Wood, do like we did and stop to take a deep breath. You will feel the clean air filling your lungs and smell the fragrances of the woods.
Tips for making the most of your visit with your dog at Joyden’s Wood
Dogs are welcome in Joyden’s Wood, where they can be let off-leash, provided they are kept under control at all times. Please note that horse riders frequent Joyden’s Wood bridleways (located on the west side of the wood), so make sure your dog has a good recall and doesn’t spook the horses, or otherwise keep your dog on a leash on the bridleways.
There is a dog walking code of conduct all dog walkers are asked to abide by, which includes cleaning after your dog. We didn’t spot any bins in the woods apart from that the main entrance, so make sure you bring a dog poo carrier.
When to go and how long to spend there
No doubt that every season can give you a different experience. Spring for the bluebells, Summer for some walks in the shade escaping London pavements, Autumn for the colours. I’ll have to get back to you on Winter highlights…
How much time to allow for a good walk? We were there for a couple of hours, but we could have spent more time if we walked all trails and tracks. Talking with Tig and Mus, they also recommended half day if you bring packed lunch, noting that there is an open area right in the middle of the woods, where the wooden sculpture of a WWII hurricane is located, that’s perfect for picnicking.
What to bring
- There are no cafes/shops on site, so bring water for you and your dog and something to eat if you plan a longer visit
- wear appropriate footwear
- carry a poop carrier case, as you won’t find any bins along the way (only at the entrance of the woods)
Dog-friendly places and things to do in the area
Dog-friendly pubs nearby
While there is no cafe/eatery on site, you can reach some dog-friendly pubs with a short drive (the first drive can also be reached with a less than 30 min walk). Tig and Mus recommend:
- Horse & Groom on Leyton Cross Road
- The Ship (small pub) on Puddledock Lane
- Seven Stars on Foots Cray High Street
- White Cross Inn on North Cray Road
Danson Park – Tig says, “Danson Park is a good place to visit – though often busy as there is a dedicated car park. There’s a cafe there to purchase food (and ice cream) if that’s what you’re after too. Dogs do go in the boating lake but visitors should be aware that depending on the weather, blue green algae blooms.”
Foot Crays Meadow – “Car Park is off Rectory Lane. The River Cray (actually a shallow chalk stream – lovely on a hot summers day) runs right through the meadows and links to Hall Place & Gardens on the other side of the A2. It’s a really nice walk, and can be done as a point to point if travelling by train. The only section which isn’t so picturesque is when you’re going under the A2.”
Dog walks in Joyden’s Wood
Joyden’s Wood is locaded in the borough of Bexley, in South East London.
Dogs welcome as long as they are under control.
Getting to Joyden’s Wood
By car is the easiest way to reach Joyden’s Wood. If you come from Central London, take the A2 and take the A220/A223 exit, then follow the A223 and A2018 to Summerhouse Drive, next to the Squires Way 429/B12 bus stop (buses going towards Bexley Village). Limited parking is available on the adjacent street free of charge; there is no dedicated parking.
There is another entrance on Ferndell Avenue, which Tig recommends. In that case “park on Joydens Wood Road and then walk up Ferndell Avenue, however do be considerate to the locals though as it’s all residential , and the residents of Ferndell Road are quite protective of their road.”
By public transport
By public transport it is quite a long journey to reach Joyden’s Wood from Central London. You can get the Southeastern train from London Bridge to Bexleyheath and then the B12 bus to Vicarage Road or the 132 bus to Bexley Library, plus a good walk from there. For your ease, use the pre-filled Citymapper navigator below (if you are on mobile and you have Citymapper app installed, this will load in your app directly).
More woods and walks
Interested in more dog walks? Find your next destination in our Parks & Walks section or check out our guide to the best hikes in London to draw inspiration for (urban and green) hikes with your dog without leaving London.