Wat Tyler Country Park
Grid ref: TQ 739 867
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The past industrial use of this site has created some strikingly unusual habitats – nowhere else in Essex can you see mature woodland consisting almost entirely of hawthorn, for example, which normally grows under canopy trees like oaks. The hawthorn hedges planted many years ago have spread to dominate the site, crowding other shrubs such as blackthorn, dogwood, elder and wild rose out to the margins. Former industrial buildings and some historic houses add further interest.
There are many ponds, ditches and creeks both within and around the park and consequently in summer dragonflies are everywhere, including the scarce emerald damselfly.
The poor soil of the clearings and the broad rides is rich in wild flowers including blue fleabane, brookweed, yellowwort and vervain. On sunny days these open areas are crowded with grassland butterflies such as the skippers and common blue, and day-flying moths including the six-spot burnet.
Two hides overlook the saltmarsh and mudflats of Timbermans Creek. Wading birds and ducks often feed on the mudflats when driven off the estuary by the rising tide. Further hides overlook Pitseahall Fleet, frequented by bearded tits, and the scrape on the landfill site beyond the fleet.
From the roundabout in Pitsea where the A132 joins the A13 follow Pitsea Hall Lane south across the railway and into the country park. SatNav: SS16 4UH.
Train to Pitsea (Fenchurch St line), then walk 800m south down Wat Tyler Way.
9am to dusk all the year round. Visitor centre open daily except Saturdays but may be closed when warden is out on site.
May–June for birdsong and early flowers; July for butterflies and dragonflies and saltmarsh colours; migration periods and winter for visiting birds.
Easy access trail all round the site. Wheelchair access to hides.
RSPB helps to man the centre and runs events from there. For more information visit the Southend RSPB website at www.southendrspb.co.uk.