An important historic site


A historic place

Once a moated manor with associated medieval settlement, St Helen's Picnic site is a special place and has been a favourite spot for visitors to enjoy, alongside the Little Ouse River. 

Since 1962 the site has been designated as a Scheduled Monument, a nationally important historic site under the Ancient Monuments Protection Act of 1882 and then the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological areas Act 1979. 

With the increase in visitors in recent years, in places there has been significant erosion to the riverbank of the Little Ouse. Forestry England has a legal obligation to stop and reduce all impacts of this erosion and damage to the area.

What this means for visitors

Entrance and Car parking spaces

Temporary blocks have been installed in response to anti-social behaviour that had been a re-occurring issue within the picnic site and access for large vehicles such as buses and HGVs has been restricted to a maximum vehicle width of 2.3 metres.

We will not be increasing the number of parking spaces, to ensure site visitors are in balance with the need to protect the site. Thetford Forest has many free to access sites with parking, view the Thetford Forest webpage for more information.


The toilets at St Helen's were closed some time ago due to the collapse of the septic tank. Forestry England as landowner have a legal obligation to abide by specific laws, such as the restriction of being able to break ground,  this has meant we need to re-evaluate (in partnership with Historic England) how and if it is possible to replace the septic tank needed to re-open the toilets. Visitors can access a toilet block less than a mile way at the Santon Downham Car Park.

Taking care

You play a crucial role in helping us maintain this historical gem. Please help us by taking your litter home, never using BBQs, being respectful of the environment and following The Forest Code

Tall conifer trees towering high next to a path in the forest

The future of St Helen's

In the coming years, changes for visitors will have to be made to the site, for us to fulfil our obligations as landowner. 

The recent geo archaeological survey has informed our future management plans for the site.  In partnership with Historic England we will be installing structures to counteract bank erosion and will explore the possibilities of re-opening the toilet block. 

St Helen's needs to adapt to be able to sustain and maintain the special place we all enjoy.