447ac/181ha LNR, SSSI (part)
Grid ref: TQ 834 876 (click for o/s map)
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Belfairs Park contains two large areas of ancient woodland. In the 1930s Hadleigh Great Wood was saved from destruction for housing following a local campaign. Belfairs Wood to the east was not so fortunate, because fairways were bulldozed through it to construct a golf course.
Hadleigh Great Wood has a history of many centuries of coppicing, and a wide range of flowers and shrubs grow among the trees, including sheets of wood anemones. The canopy trees are mainly oak and sweet chestnut, and it also has significant numbers of alder buckthorn trees, foodplant of brimstone butterfly caterpillars. Here and there you can see patches of ling heather. As well as brimstone, heath fritillary, white admiral, silver-washed fritillary and marbled white butterflies can be seen here in summer.
Belfairs Wood has not had the same level of management and is more heavily shaded and much poorer in wildlife. It is a good place to see nuthatch and woodpeckers, and has many paths and small clearings.
The Prittle Brook enters from the west, then flows down the south-western fringe of Belfairs Wood. Although heavily shaded, it has a natural channel lined here and there with aquatic plants. .
Access from Eastwood Road North, reached from the A13 via Eastwood Road and from the A127 westbound via The Fairway. SatNav: SS9 4LR.
Regular bus services between Basildon and Southend run along the A13 to the south. Leigh-on-Sea station is about 30 minutes' walk via Belton Hills, Salisbury Road and Eastwood Road.
Accessible at all times. Car park open dawn to dusk. Belfairs Woodland Centre (run by Essex Wildlife Trust) open daily 10am–4pm; phone 01702 477647.
May for woodland flowers and birdsong; mid-June to mid-July for heath fritillary butterflies.
Dogs permitted in Belfairs Park but not inside the Woodland Centre.