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Essex Field Club
Essex Field Club
registered charity
no 1113963
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Hunts Hill, Belhus Woods Country Park, TQ566831

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Status: Country Park

Summary: Old sand workings with sand exposures, flower rich areas, a small area of lichen heath, sparsely vegetated ground and lakes. Drought stressed oaks occur at several locations at the site. Access by car is via BWCP car park (which see), but footpaths are also close by.

Description: This brown field site of about 15ha was excavated for sand and gravel and the landscape made into its present form in the winter of 2000/2001. Very soon the whole site is to be added to BWCP, who are already involved in its management. Before the excavations, topsoil was taken off and made into huge banks round the site. Some of that remains, particularly next to Romford Road. A substantial area around the large lake margins was left without soil, and is by far the most interesting part of the site for wild plants, including bryophytes and lichens. The rest is now rough grassland, with invasion of scrub mainly Butterfly-bush (Buddleia davidii) and assorted willows and some Silver Birch, and Brambles. The first plants in 2000 and 2001 were all severely depauperate, mainly Ranunculus celeratus (flowering at 2cm high), Rumex maritimus (also flowering at 2cm high), Filago vulgaris and F. minima (both flowering at 1cm high) and a few others. Later came Willowherbs, especially Epilobium parviflorum, various Vetches and Clovers, Blinks (Montia fontana subsp chondrosperma) and large quantities of Erophila verna and Myosotis ramossisimus. The smaller plants remain on the almost bare ground round the big lake, along with mosses and lichens. Canada Geese have invaded the lake and their droppings are raising the fertility of the sandy shores, which is a great pity. In the SE corner is an extra bit of water, often a small pond of its own with a sand bar across, but in winter it is not separate. A good variety of rushes, sedges and other water plants grow in this shallow water. In the SW corner is a small area of Silver Birch on the original gravel surface. This area is rich in fungi and lichens. Beyond it, but almost inaccessible, is an old fishing pond, long neglected and very overgrown, but it still has Swan Mussels in it. To the north of the main lake is a much smaller one, very irregular in shape, with a sand/gravel cliff at the northern edge for Sand Martins (see pic below). This lake has a small island in it which is very rich in lichens and mosses, but can only be reached by boat.

Reason for interest: The diversity of vegetation types, plant diversity and relatively unmanaged nature of the habitats (at least in 2002) mean continuity of vegetative resources essential for many invertebrates.

Comment: There are often notices put up in spring saying 'keep out to avoid disturbance to nesting birds'. This relates chiefly to dogs, who are usually off leads and run everywhere including swimming over to the islands. People mostly stay on the broad paths both sides of the big lake, which are well away from the open shores where birds may nest. This whole area has a very different feel from the rest of the park. It is open and windswept and often seems much colder than the sheltered areas to the south.


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page last edited on Wed Mar 26th 2008 by site user 61

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