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Chalkney Wood

200ac/81ha  SSSI

Grid ref: TL 872 273 (click for o/s map)

Updated 25/08/2014

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The south-western part of Chalkney Wood is owned by Essex County Council and managed as a public space. The remainder, running down to the River Colne, is owned by the Forestry Commission who have planted up much of it with conifers. As these conifers are harvested, the original native trees are being allowed to grow through and take their place.

Chalkney Wood is unusual in its great variety and in that it contains the greatest concentration of small-leaved lime trees in Essex. Small-leaved lime used to be widespread across lowland England but is now restricted to just a few woods. It has little timber value and was rarely planted, so it survives almost solely in woods that have not been reshaped by man for many centuries.

Small-leaved lime is the dominant species in much of the Essex County Council section of the wood, which is on a boulder clay soil. This gives way to London clay as the land falls towards the River Colne in the north, and as it falls so the natural vegetation contains more and more hornbeam. The southern corner contains a mix of ash, hazel, holly, field maple and wild cherry, with wild currant growing beneath them, probably because of a patch of particularly chalky soil. Along the north-western edge are a number of alder valleys fed by springs, where marsh marigold, opposite-leaved golden saxifrage and wild garlic grow. Here and there are patches of aspen, a wild service tree or two, oak, sweet chestnut and elm.

Coppicing promotes diversity of wildlife, and the long history of coppicing in this wood is evident in its great natural richness and variety. Bluebells, wood anemones and primroses cover the woodland floor in different parts of the wood, especially in the areas that have been coppiced recently.


Main entrance about a mile down a minor road leaving the A1124 (Colchester–Halstead) between Earls Colne and White Colne, heading south. It can also be entered from the north via a footpath running south from the A1124 at White Colne to Chalkney Mill.

Several bus services between Colchester and Halstead run along the A1124.

Accessible at all times.

Late March through to May for spring flowers and birdsong.

Photo © Roger Jiggins