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Status: Country Park
Summary: Brown field areas following gravel extraction, some landfilled and some lakes, but also ancient semi-natural woodlands and some ex arable land. From Romford Road there is a car park and visitor centre. Local paths provide other entrances.
Description: Young lakes, numerous ditches and streams, marshy bits and the Running Water Brook give a variety of wetland habitats. Several patches of ancient semi-natural woodlands of varying types, and numerous hedges and scrub areas give shaded cover. Open young grassy fields and some open gravel or sandy areas combine with the rest to make a rich mosaic of habitats with great biodiversity. Two ancient semi-natural woodlands are west of Romford Road, but managed as parts of the Park. Both are easily accessed by footpaths, or using the car park in Warwick Lane that serves Cely Woods (Thames Chase). Both White Post Wood and Warwick Wood are outstanding for their fungus flora. Warwick Wood has a wider vascular plant flora than White Post Wood, and has many ancient woodland indicator species. Warwick Wood is wet in parts and is almost all native trees, whereas White Post Wood is quite dry and has a lot of Sycamore and the best display of Bluebells for miles around.
Reason for interest: The rich mosaic of habitats are home to over 500 species of higher plants, 100 bryophytes, 95 lichens (at least), 415 fungi (at least). Animal life is also rich, including many waterbirds.
Comment: More could be done to manage for biodiversity, but attempts are being made, especially with a coppice rotation of a large area of woodland. The Park is primarily for human leisure and recreation, but this does not rule out good conservation. The Park is owned by Thurrock and Havering, but management is provided by Essex. This is not ideal, and increased funds from other sources would enable more much-needed conservation to take place.
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