Mill Meadows Local Nature Reserve does have rough surfaces and steep slopes. A 90 acre reserve contains fine examples of old grazing meadow on wet and dry soils, scrub and developing woodland and has a great diversity of wildlife including rare species.
Old meadows, rich in wild flowers and other wildlife have almost disappeared from the landscape, especially in the densely populated south-east of England where surviving farms produce arable crops.
Yet, within a quarter mile of Billericay town centre lies this 90 acre site that has remained virtually unchanged for centuries.
The views, across the valley to nearby Norsey Wood or east over the borough and beyond are spectacular. Basildon Council acquired the meadows in 1991 and declared them a Local Nature Reserve.
The main footpath starts from the Scout Hall, Greens Farm Lane, and follows the main ridge across to the Southend Road (A129) for about 600 metres.
Soils & Landscape
A series of rolling meadows either side of a central ridge are cut by streams and ditches.
The higher parts are made up of better drained sands and gravels overlaying clay in the valleys. Spring lines on the lower slopes give rise to marshy areas.
Vegetation & Wildlife
The meadows have been kept open by cattle grazing which has also enabled the unique mixture of plants and animals that flourish here. Scrub is encroaching in parts and over the main ridge young oak woodland and bracken dominate.
Fine mature oak and ash grace the old hedge lines and copses, with some dense sycamore stands.
Badgers, stoats and foxes are regular throughout the reserve and there is an impressive bird list too.
All three species of Woodpecker occur and Sparrowhawks hunt the covers for the many Tits, Finches, Warblers and Thrushes that use the area for feeding and nesting. But it's the succession of flowers and corresponding wealth of butterflies that really give the meadows their distinction.
Pignut, Cuckoo Flower and Spotted Orchids with Bluebells in the copses, followed by a profusion of Knapweed, Burnet Saxifrage and Devil's-bit Scabious provide food and nectar through to late summer.
Ragged Robin and Sneezewort, both scarce in Essex can also be found. The delicate nodding blue flowers of Harebell are a reminder that this is a fragile habitat, just as easily lost to neglect as to development or ploughing.
Opening times: Every day - open access!
Phone: 01277 624553 or 01268 208090 (Countryside Services)
Nearest Train Station: Billericay - approximately. 1 mile
Buses: 100, 101, 140, NB, 222, 751