Grid ref: TL 638 012 (click for o/s map)
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Sizeable parts of what was once Writtle Forest survive in private ownership but are still accessible via public footpaths and bridleways. These woods have all the diversity and also much of the wildness that you might have found in medieval woods – areas dense with bracken and bramble and others where the woodland floor is dark and bare; little streams and bogs; occasional glades. The trees are mainly sweet chestnut coppice, with oak and hornbeam in the damper parts, and maple, spindle and dogwood on the fringes.
Unlike Hatfield Forest, Writtle Forest had the woods in the middle and the plains – open areas used for grazing – around the outside. Mill Green Common is a surviving part of the plains. It has been invaded by birch and other trees, but still has some heather in the open parts, which are alive with insects in summer.
Maple Tree Lane is a broad ancient green lane, bounded for much of its length by ditches and banks topped with twisted coppice stools of hornbeam and massive oaks. Short sections have been surfaced, but for most of the way the tracks followed by horses (and with more difficulty, people) meander round patches of bramble and scrub and occasional pools and boggy areas.
North of Ingatestone and west of Chelmsford. Leave the A12 at Ingatestone and take the minor road from the centre of Ingatestone to Fryerning. Turn right and follow Mill Green Road to Mill Green, or turn left and follow Blackmore Road to reach Fryerning Wood and Maple Tree Lane. SatNav: CM4 0RH.
Accessible at all times.
May–June for early flowers and birdsong; July–August for flowers and butterflies.
Many of the paths are heavily used by horses and can be boggy and wet even in the summer.