Santon Downham 6 mile circular (Thetford Forest)

This is the first hike that I’ve done in Thetford Forest. Ever! 

I can’t quite believe I haven’t been there before. It is absolutely a great time to go as well, with the changing colour of the leaves.

We weren’t blessed with sunny weather, however, it did manage to stay pretty dry for the entire walk.

Leisurely 2 Hour Walk

It was a reasonably late set off, at 2 pm, but as this walk was a leisurely 2 hours there was plenty of time to get back before darkness starting kicking in. (However, now that the clocks have gone back you may want to consider setting out a little earlier if you’re going to do this walk in autumn or winter.)


By car: Parking for this route is at the Forest District Offices Car Park OS grid reference TL 938 919.

By bus: Getting the bus there is slightly more tricky, as the buses generally go between Thetford and Brandon, and don’t make very many detours to Santon Downham. However, it is less than an hour’s walk from Brandon (2.5 miles). There are regular buses all day from Thetford to Brandon, so you won’t get stuck. Check out this timetable for more information: https://www.coachservicesltd.com/timetables-maps/. The number 200 bus route is the one that occasionally goes to Santon Downham.

St Helen’s Church in Santon Downham

Beginning The Walk

Turn right out of the Forest District car park back up the same small road you came down in the car and follow it for a short while passing by St Mary’s Church on the left. This brought us to a t-junction on the corner of the road.

Turning left leads slightly uphill and along a tree lined road with little traffic.

A few hundred metres on we turned left down a forest track, which was marked by orange path markers and a large 17 written on a road sign.

The track descended slightly, turning a little bit boggy in places after all the rain we’ve had lately.

Descending on the leafy forest track
It was a little boggy in places towards the bottom, but very picturesque

Picturesque Woodland Path

It was very pretty with all the autumn leaves and the pine trees framing our view as we walked. We hardly saw another soul too, even though it was the weekend, just the odd dog walker.

On the left we passed some fields of horses. There is an orange route marker turning left just after the horses, however, do not take this turning, this is the route that we will come back on. Instead, continue straight on alongside a felled part of the forest.

Little Lodge Farm

Follow on for just over half a mile and turn right on the smaller forked path, just before reaching Little Lodge Farm up ahead. The footpath opens out and takes you across a field alongside the farm meadows to the left. Continue walking until you reach the clearly visible tree line ahead, where you will turn left.

After following the track for a short way you will see a narrow but well-marked footpath leading into the trees to the right. This will bring you out onto another forest track. You will find information about the local bat population on an info-board.

Footbridge crossing the Little Ouse River

Turn right onto the broad track, and continue on for a couple of hundred metres until you see a wide marked footpath to the left. This is the path that leads to the bridge that crosses over the river.

We actually ended up taking a slightly different route, trusting the marked route on the ordnance survey route. However, it seems that they have made a slight adjustment to the actual route making it more direct to cross the river. We ended up having to walk on a rather muddy path to get back to the main route.


Soon you will reach the picturesque footbridge crossing the river. It did have a pole reinforcing it in the middle which we had to step over, making it look as if it needed a bit of maintenance. However, we found it to be very solid after taking some tentative steps to make sure.

Once on the other side, turn right. Follow the riverside path towards the power station, which is clearly visible in front of you.

There were two very large brown Newfoundland dogs swimming up the river which was quite a sight!

At the end of the riverside path you will pass the scouts camping ground (lucky scouts). Find a signpost that leads in all different directions.

Two Mile Bottom!

Follow the yellow sign towards Two Mile Bottom Car Park, ignoring the small path to the left and crossing underneath the railway line.

Continue to follow straight on along the path towards the main road turning left onto it when you get there. There was a path along the verge taking you slightly off the tarmac. Follow it, staying on the left for around 50 metres until you get to the next left track. This is a rather busy road, and although we only had to walk on it for a short while, I was glad when we were off it again.

Back In The Woods

Once back in the woods again there is a very clear track to follow which takes you on an interesting history of the area via the information boards dotted along it.

There is St Helen’s Well (Spring) down a path to the left if you’re interested in checking it out. Also, a mound where an ancient church once stood that was estimated to have been built before 1066.

The path follows the direction of the railway line until you reach another underpass to the left which leads you back under the railway line to Santon House and the very cute little All Saints Church of Santon.

All Saints Church of Santon

Here there is a choice of routes. You can either take the Little Ouse riverside path to the left as we did, or you can follow the wider path straight on. Both routes will lead you to the bridge that crosses over the river.

Second footbridge at Santon
The Little Ouse River

Cross back over the river, and follow the path straight ahead. This will lead you out onto the same path that you started out on. Turn right and follow your footsteps back the way you came which will take you back to the Forest Office car park where the route ends.

I found the trees in this area really stunning, especially in all their autumn glory. To be honest, I can’t wait to go back and do some more exploring in Thetford Forest.

Leave me a comment below if you get out to do this walk, and let me know what you thought.

Happy walking!

Karen Branscombe
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