Belfairs Woodland Centre

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Listed in Nature Reserves & Woods, Parks, Wildlife and Nature, Places to Go


Belfairs Woodland Centre was officially opened by BBC Springwatch presenter Martin Hughes-Games on 7 September 2013. It opened to the public the next day and is now open daily, 9am – 5pm. The Woodland Centre provides a space for schools, groups and families to learn about south Essex’s fantastic ancient woodlands in an interactive way. Events and activities will be arranged throughout the year and volunteers will be able to gain practical experience in managing woodlands and other important habitats.

Belfairs Woodland Centre is a visitor, community and education centre. It is an important gateway to the Belfairs &Daws Heath Living Landscape, in south Essex, where Essex Wildlife Trust and Southend-on-Sea Borough Council are working, together with many partners and local people, on conservation and education activities, to preserve this fantastic landscape for future generations.

The striking, wooden-clad building has been constructed sympathetically to its environment. Inside, there are an education hall (also available to hire as a meeting hall), shop, information displays and refreshments area.

Belfairs Woodland Centre introduces visitors to the 1160-acre Living Landscape, a third of which is woodland, including a number of outstanding sites valuable for nature conservation. It is a crucial green lung surrounded by urban areas and provides a tremendous green space of great importance to local people of the Boroughs of Southend and Castle Point. Much of the woodland is officially ‘ancient woodland’; some is more than 1,000 years old, making it the earliest woodland recorded in Essex.

The woodlands are home to a number of historic landscape features and a wide variety of flora and fauna, including several nationally-threatened species. The Dormouse, Heath Fritillary butterfly and Song Thrush are key species here, as is the unusual Wild Service tree, an important indicator of ancient woodland. The woods are enjoyed by local residents and visitors for walking, cycling, horse riding, golf and bowls.

Most of the woods survive from an age when woodland was a vital economic resource. Coppicing and woodland rotation helped long-term sustainability, creating a patchwork of trees of different age, height, density and species – incidentally supporting a far greater diversity of plant and animal species.

Essex Wildlife Trust and other partners within the Living Landscape have resumed these traditional woodland management techniques, which will help the return and spread of declining species. Traditional management also involves and engages local people and communities. The centre will be open to all visitors and will work with local people and those from further afield to protect this precious landscape for future generations to value and enjoy.

Led by the Centre Manager, skilled staff will help people access the fantastic natural and cultural heritage of this area.The Education and Community Officer works with schools to provide forest education within the woodlands, where children learn about the environment, wildlife and nature and gain practical skills, and organises events, indoors and outdoors, for all the family to enjoy.

Our Woodland Ranger undertakes much of the practical conservation work within the landscape. This involves working with landowners, existing conservation groups and volunteers to ensure that the landscape is managed for the benefit of the community, wildlife and local economy.

The project has been funded by a number of organisations and individuals and Essex Wildlife Trust would like to thank them for their support. In particular, funding has been received from Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, Heritage Lottery Fund, MaxiGreen, INTERREG IVA 2Seas, Biffa Award, Cory Environmental Trust, Veolia Pitsea Marshes Trust, Bernard Sunley Charitable Trust, Olympus Keymed, Network Rail and organisations associated within the Timber Trade.

Please note that dogs are not allowed in Belfairs Woodland Centre.

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