165ac/67ha SSSI, LNR
Grid ref: TQ 691 955 (click for o/s map)
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Norsey Wood, just east of Billericay, consists of 165 acres of mixed coppice woodland, at least part of it continuously wooded since Roman times. It has one of the greatest concentrations of bluebells in the world and large numbers of hard fern. Water violets grow in the ponds.
It is criss-crossed by ancient woodbanks and ditches, marking former boundaries of ownership.It has had an eventful history: Iron Age and Roman remains have been found there and it is believed to have been used as a last refuge by the rebels who took part in the Peasants' Revolt of 1381, led by Wat Tyler, before they were destroyed by the forces of the Crown.
Like a number of woods in southern Essex it lies on gravelly deposits on top of London Clay, so the vegetation varies greatly from a well-drained plateau down to the damper and heavier soils in the southern valleys.
There is mainly sweet chestnut coppice on the higher and better-drained soils, with occasional colonies of heather. Not far from the visitor centre are some massive stools of coppiced hornbeam, which must be at least 500 years old.
Descending into the marshy valleys you find different trees and plants from the gravelly parts. Alder, ash and willow coppice grow here with areas of pendulous sedge, buckler fern and sphagnum moss (from which peat bogs are formed)
Norsey Road turns off the B1007 just north of Billericay centre.
About 10 minutes' walk from Billericay rail station.
Site and car park open at all times; Visitor Centre weekends only.
April–May for bluebells and songbirds; October for fungi.
Call the Information Centre on 01277 624553.