1049ac/425ha SSSI, NNR
Grid ref: TL 547 202 (click for o/s map)
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Hatfield Forest is probably the only place anywhere, let alone in Essex, where you can experience what a medieval hunting forest must have been like. It is a landscape of trees and open grassland created by centuries of grazing and woodland management.
Ancient trees, and particularly ancient pollard trees, are what make Hatfield Forest so special. It has about 600 pollards in total, including not only oak and hornbeam, which can be seen elsewhere in Essex, but also many maple and hawthorn, which are rare as pollards, and just a handful of beech, lineage elm and crab apple. Nowhere else can you see such a variety of species nor such a variety of form, from gnarled, twisted old hawthorns to massive, stately oaks. It is also the stronghold in Essex of mistletoe, which is widespread on the ancient hawthorns and maples on the plains.
The coppice woods consist mainly of ash, hazel, and an unusually large number of maple. The predominant woodland plant is dog's mercury but the coppice woodlands also support a very wide range of other flowers including indicators of ancient woodland such as oxlips (mainly in or near Hamptons Coppice) and herb paris (in Long Coppice).
A range of woodland birds breed in the Forest, including nightingale (decreasing), plus the odd woodcock and hawfinch. Buzzards, which are recolonising Essex, sometimes fly over and may possibly breed. Flocks of redwing and fieldfare visit in winter
Turn south off the B1256 (Bishop's Stortford–Takeley) in Takely Street, about 3 miles east of M11 junction 8.
Buses run to Takeley Street from Bishop's Stortford and Braintree/Dunmow: get off at Green Man PH.
Open dawn to dusk daily. Refreshment room open daily 10am–4.30pm, April to end October, otherwise 10am–3.30pm.
March to see the golden mistletoe stems on the trees in the plains; May for birdsong and spring flowers; July for butterflies in the open areas and along the rides.
Dogs on leads near livestock and around lake. Dog-free area near lake.
Call 01279 870678 or 01279 874040 (Infoline) or 01279 870447 (Learning).