Danbury Ridge Nature Reserves

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

The Trust manages a block of nearly 250 acres of nature reserves on Danbury Ridge; a mosaic of woodland, common and heathland, streams and bogs.

There are a number of nature reserves including

Birch Wood SSSI – 15 acres

Little Baddow Heath (mostly SSSI) – 50 acres

Pheasanthouse Farm – 57 acres (working farm. Access by footpaths only)

Pheasanthouse Wood SSSI – 17 acres

Poors Piece SSSI – 8.1 acres

Smaller Poor Piece SSSI – 2.9 acres

Scrubs Wood SSSI – 10 acres (entrance TL 787057 on North of Runsell Lane, Danbury)

Spring Wood – 9 acres

Woodham Walter Common SSSI – 80 acres

Backwarden SSSI – 30 acres (car park TL 782039, Danbury to Bicknacre Rd)

Heather Hills – 17 acres

Hitchcock’s Meadow SSSI – 10 acres

What to look for:

Woodham Walter Common, a gravel covered plateau sloping down to stream valleys on both sides, forms the eastern section. It is principally secondary woodland, with a few areas that are being kept open to encourage low growing plants and especially Ling Heather. It is noted for its Sessile Oak trees, with many Rowan and a scattering of Wild Service and Alder Buckthorn.

Birch Wood at its northern corner consists mainly of Hornbeam coppice, worked on a 20 year cycle. In spring there is a superb display of flowers inclsuing Wood Anemones, Wood Spurge, Wood Sorrel and Climbing Corydalis. The wood aso contains a colony of the unusual Golden-scaled Fern.

Pheasanthouse Wood to the west is mixed woodland with a raised bog. This has dense hummocks of Sphagnum Moss, large numbers of the rare Lesser Skullcap and Smooth and Star Sedges.

Poors Piece sits in the angle to the west of Little Baddow Heath. It contains many Oak pollards suggesting that it was once used as wood pasture. In its southern corner is a marsh full of wetland plants, notably Agrimony, Hop Sedge and Lady Fern.

The southermost tip is Scrubs Wood, consisting mainly of Hornbeam and Chestnut coppice with Oak standards, plus some Wild Service trees. It is fairly flat except for the gently sloping bank on its southern boundary which ahs a fine display of Wood Anemones. Other flowering plants include Tormentil and Broad-leaved Helleborine.

Dormice, once common but now much reduced in numbers, are found in many parts of the reserve. The birdlife includes Nuthatch, all three species of woodpecker, migrant warblers and, intermittently, Nightingale. There are a good number of butterflies including Brimstone, Ringlet and Small Copper. Lily of the valley is a special feature of Danbury Ridge and other unusual wild flowers here include Yellow Archangel, Greater Butterfly Orchid and Sanicle.

The Backwarden nature reserve is owned by the National Trust and managed by Essex Wildlife Trust. It is linked with Danbury Common and has three areas of recently restored heathland. There are a variety of habitats including secondary woodland, ponds and blackthorn thickets.

Heathland restoration is vital as part of the management of The Backwarden. The warden and his team have spent much time creating opening ground to allow heather to generate. There is a good Dormouse population and it has many reptiles including Adders, Grass Snakes, Slow Worms and Lizards.

Hitchcock’s Meadow is also off Danbury Common, half the reserve is flower-rich ancient pasture and the other half secondary woodland, scrubland and marsh. The marsh is dominated by Giant Horsetail, while the small laneside meadow has clovers and Knapweek; it is excellent for butterflies.

Accessible at all times. Dogs allowed if under effective control.

Directions – Foot access from the west via Firtree Lane off the Ridge; from the east via Common Lane, Woodham Walter; and from the south via Twitty Fee or Runsell Lane, a turning to the right 600m along Little Baddow Road from Eves Corner.

Public Transport – Regular bus services from Chelmsford to Maldon or South Woodham Ferrers. Get off at Eves Corner.

Did you know?

You will get a great view from Danbury Parish Church in the village of the surrounding countryside as it is one of the highest points in Essex.

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