Grid ref: TQ 659 874 (click for o/s map)
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This is Essex Wildlife Trust's largest inland reserve, more than 500 acres of flower-rich meadows, ponds, ancient and secondary woodland, and hundreds of former plotland gardens.
Its importance lies not in its rarities but in the abundance of wildlife once common in our countryside but now threatened by intensive farming and urban spread. To date 29 species of butterfly and over 350 flowering plants have been recorded, and the list still grows. Badgers, foxes and weasels thrive in 'unimproved' meadows and orchids can be counted in their thousands.
Langdon Visitor Centre is the gateway to people's understanding of the social and natural history of this fascinating reserve, enabling thousands of visitors each year to explore what lies on their doorstep.
The original reserve consisted of four sections: from west to east these are Dunton, Lincewood, Marks Hill and Willow Park. In 2007 the reserve was extended to include a large lake and some meadows immediately north of Dunton called (unsurprisingly) 'Langdon Lake & Meadows'.
Dunton today consists of the remains of plotland homes and gardens, wide grassy avenues bordered by hawthorn scrub, and glades where wild grassland species compete with garden perennials. This patchwork of habitats is superb for butterflies. Old orchards with pear, apple, plum and damson trees attract people and animals alike in autumn and the plotland ruins offer many basking sites for snakes and lizards. The Visitor Centre and the adjacent picnic area make Dunton an ideal starting point for your visit to the reserve.
The derelict plotland roads in Lincewood are accompanied by ancient and secondary woodland on higher ground, making it a good spot to look out for all three woodpecker species. Bluebells carpet the woodland floor in spring and a riot of garden escapes flower throughout the summer - goats rue, old roses and many others. An adjacent recreation ground has thousands of green-winged orchids in May.
Marks Hill is a patchwork of ancient and secondary woodland, meadows and deserted plotlands. Stands of oak, ash and hornbeam have been brought back into a coppice cycle to enhance the rich diversity of flowering plants. In spring there is an impressive display of bluebells, wood anemones and primrose. The grassland supports a large number of common spotted orchids. Several warbler species breed and in some years the nightingale. The boundary oaks are home to a colony of purple hairstreak butterflies and the locally rare cave spider lives in an old well.
Willow Park was once a medieval deer park. The unimproved hay meadows are bordered by ancient hedgerows and more recent mixed plantations, planted by the Commission for New Towns in the 1980s. The meadows and rough grassland are home to many flowering plants, including several species of orchid, and to the grizzled skipper butterfly. Seven ponds of varying sizes attract a wide range of dragonflies and damselflies.
4.5 miles east of M25 junction 29 between the A127 and the A13. Routes are signposted from the north from the B148 turning off the A127 and from the south from the A13 – follow the brown-and-white duck signs.
Laindon station on the Fenchurch Street–Southend line is less than 800m from the reserve. Frequent bus services run from Basildon town centre to Laindon station, to Langdon Hills and to Highview Avenue.
Reserve accessible at all times. Visitor Centre open 9 am - 5 pm except Mondays.
Something of interest all the year round: spring for breeding birds and early flowers such as primroses; summer for orchids and other flowers, and for birdsong, autumn for fruit and berries and for late butterflies; winter to see huge flocks of migrant thrushes and perhaps a long-eared owl.
Call the Centre on 01268 419095 for more information and for details of events and activities for young and old.