Marks Hall Estate
Grid ref: TL 841 255 (click for o/s map)
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An ancient estate set in attractive countryside north of Coggeshall. It runs to some 2,000 acres, of which 150 are enclosed and hold an arboretum and formal gardens and a further 300 acres are accessible via footpaths. It was left to the nation by its last owner, Thomas Phillips Price, and it has been restored and is managed now by the Thomas Phillips Price Trust.
Great wildlife interest can be found in the old deer park, which sadly has lost all but one of its massive ancient oaks, and in a large area of ancient woodland. Some of these woods have been planted with conifers but a great amount of the original woodland remains, containing large areas of small-leaved lime – a tree that once dominated the woods of East Anglia but now, because of long-term climate change, confined to just a few ancient woods – and a number of wild service trees.
The woods are being coppiced and this encourages flowering plants such as lily of the valley, sweet woodruff, wood sorrel and early purple orchid. The woods are frequented by deer and a wide range of woodland birds, including nightingales. Rare breed pigs are held in movable enclosures in the woods and perform the same function as wild boars used to, turning over the soil looking for food. Highland cattle graze the open grassland.
With its grassy tracks and ancient hedgerows, Marks Hall is especially good for butterflies. Most of the commoner grassland butterflies can be seen and also, in woodland clearings, white admiral and silver-washed fritillary, (reintroduced in 2010).
Reached via a turning off the B1024 to Earls Colne north of Coggeshall: follow the brown-and-white signs from the A120.
The Visitor Centre – housed in a 15th-century barn – is normally open from Easter until 31st October except non-Bank Holiday Mondays,10.30am to 5pm, otherwise Fridays and weekends only, 10.30am to 4.30pm. Admission £3.50 adults, £1 children 5 and over. Accessible via public footpaths at all times, but permissive paths and the gardens are open during visitor centre hours. Waymarked walks of varying lengths start from the centre.
Spring for woodland flowers and birdsong; summer for butterflies.
For events and current opening times call the visitor centre on 01376 563796.