Conservation, health, and safety at Ruislip Woods

A Visitor’s Guide

Earlier today, I had the pleasure of exchanging correspondence with Mr Richard Hutton, Woodland Officer with the Borough of Hillingdon. I have contacted Mr Hutton with a view to find out more about the former mansion site’s accessibility and other best practices, as well as discuss the possibility of signposting the location with a view to enhancing visitor experience. Mr Hutton confirmed that ‘they are intending to produce a heritage leaflet of the woods, which will include this site as well as bomb craters and earth banks’ . This is very exciting news, and ties well with the forthcoming Woodland Centre exhibit at Ruislip Lido to highlight the historic importance of the Battle of Britain House.

As the number of people who visit the Ruislip Woods is set to increase in the future, it is important to remember that the former mansion site rests inside the boundaries of a woodland conservation area. Mr Hutton authored the most recent Ruislip Woods Management Plan 2018 -2022, outlining the council’s conservation considerations and strategy for Ruislip Woods. It is useful to familiarise with this document before visiting the woods, particularly where it sets out the best terms for public access, as well as what is at stake.

Why should it matter how I visit or use Ruislip Woods?

Ruislip Woods in general, and the area around the site of the mansion in particular, is home to uncommon plants and rare reptiles that should be preserved. The woods are a protected ecosystem with a carefully managed equilibrium comprising flora, fauna, the weather, the natural environment, the soil, and of course us as responsible visitors. In addition to ecological considerations, we have to be aware that the abandoned mansion site is dotted with various hazards, such as broken steps, holes, branches, glass and metal shards, among others.

Stick to the footpaths, in good weather !

What are the best practices for visiting the woods ?

When at Ruislip Woods, you are encouraged to stick to statutory footpaths and well trodden trails, and avoid disturbing plants, trees or animals with your presence. Yes, it is entirely possible to make most of your visit by using the beaten paths, and entirely possible to make the most of your visit without disturbing the woodland. If you are uncertain as to which footpaths are statutory, there are maps that outline these at the entrances to the woods. Google Maps on your phone is also a great resource, and I notice all statutory footpaths are marked with dotted lines mostly matching the council’s maps (if uncertain, please prioritise the information on the council’s maps). Last, there are wooden posts at most junctions marking footpaths you should ideally be using.

In addition, please exercise caution when visiting the woods, especially if you happen upon the ruins. Please try to not use the steps, as they are broken and an accident risk. Needless to say, please beware of glass and metal shards, as well as stubs, holes or stones set in the ground. Last, please avoid visiting the woods on rainy days altogether, as it tends to get very slippery. All of these considerations are important for your health and safety.

I trust we will all remain sensitive to the environment during our visits to the woods.

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