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Hatfield Forest

1049ac/425ha  SSSI, NNR

Grid ref: TL 547 202

Updated 31/12/2023.

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Hatfield Forest is a compartmented forest, with open grazed areas separated from the wooded areas by ditches and banks designed to keep out grazing animals. Trees scattered across the plains are pollarded, in other words cut above head height where grazing animals cannot reach, while the wooded compartments are managed by coppicing.

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 and form. It is also the stronghold in Essex of mistletoe, which is widespread on the ancient hawthorns and maples on the plains.

A range of woodland birds breed in the Forest, including nightingale, plus the odd woodcock and hawfinch. Feeding flocks of hawfinches, redwings and fieldfares can sometimes be seen in winter.


Turn south off the B1256 (Bishop's Stortford–Takeley) in Takely Street, about 3 miles east of M11 junction 8. Limited car parking in the winter months. SatNav: CM22 6LH.

Buses run to Takeley Street from Bishop's Stortford and Braintree/Dunmow: get off at Green Man PH.

Open dawn to dusk daily. Caf open daily 9am–5pm, April to end October, otherwise 9am–3pm.

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).

© David Corke