Norsey Wood Local Nature Reserve
175 acres of ancient coppiced sweet chestnut, oak and hornbeam woodland with alder carr in the wet valleys.
In 1976 the site was purchased by Basildon Council which saved it from being used for housing development.
Norsey Wood is visited by about 60,000 people a year. Some people visit just to walk or to exercise their dogs. Other people come to study the wildlife or the history of the site. Schools and colleges make education visits too.
Norsey Wood has a wide variety of plants and animal life. The wood is helping to conserve biodiversity by providing suitable homes for some threatened and rare species like the dormouse and pipistrelle bat.
Norsey Wood is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Local Nature Reserve, as an ancient coppice woodland with a wide variety of plants and animals, largely as a result of the varied geology, history and management of the site.
The wood is divided by rides or pathways many of which are thought to date back to Iron Age times. The earliest written evidence for the rides is a map of 1593. They have been described as the oldest known woodland rides which still exist.
Downloadable - Norsey Wood and Nature Trail Leaflet (PDF) [1MB] (opens new window) .
The wood is open to pedestrians 24 hours a day 365 days a year.
There are pedestrian entrances in:
- Outwood Common Road
- Break Egg Hill
- Norsey Close
- and Norsey Road.
Car park opening times.
- April 1st to October 31st 06:00 - 20:30
- November 1st to 31st March 06:00 - 18:30
Car park entrance is in Outwood Common Road.
If travelling on the A127 (London-Southend), turn onto the A176 (Billericay turnoff). Proceed to Billericay High Street and take the right fork at the far end (Norsey Road). As you leave the built-up area, look out for Outwood Common Road on the right. The entrance to the Wood is about 350 metres up this road on the right.
If you are approaching from the Chelmsford direction along the B1007, take the left exit at the roundabout (Potash Road) soon after entering the built-up area of Billericay. At the end of this road, turn left and then almost immediately right into Outwood Common Road. The entrance to the Wood is about 350 metres on the right.
Get directions, see Google map - Norsey Wood Information Centre.
By PUBLIC TRANSPORT
Take the bus or train to Billericay. From Billericay High Street follow Norsey Road, turn right into Deerbank, and enter the wood by turning first left. The Information Centre can be reached by walking straight through the wood on the main ride for about one kilometre.
- Mobility vehicle available
- Limited access for wheelchair users
- Easy access trail
- Car parking
- Woodland craft events and special activities and open days are run throughout the year for schools and visitors
- Picnic areas
- Nature Trail
- Easy access trail
Landscape, vegetation and wildlife
Soils and Landscape
Much of the woodland covers a high plateau of well drained pebbly gravels, overlaying sands, loams and clays. Impermeable London Clay occurs in the valley bottoms to the south-west, where spring lines and flushes create permanently damp habitats. The conditions vary from dry heath on the plateau, through fertile slopes, to acidic bog in the valleys.
The majority Norsey Wood shows evidence of coppicing. Oak, Sweet Chestnut and Hornbeam are common on the better drained soils and Alder dominates the damper areas with Ash and Willow. Sweet Chestnut introduced by the Romans is the main commercial timber.
Coups, (newly coppiced areas) are busy with springtime wildlife, when Stitchwort, Violets and St John's Wort respond to the increased light levels, as do small areas of Heather in the permanent clearings.
Blackcaps and Wrens use the regenerating stools (cut stumps) as nest sites. Carpets of Bluebells, Wood Anemone and patches of Lily-of-the-Valley area indicators of the great age of Norsey Wood. Larch, which is a deciduous conifer was once widely planted. A stand still survives in the southern part of the wood, though the great storm of 1987 took its toll.
Wind-blown timber, alive and dead, creates valuable niches for a host of creatures, from beetles and fungi to woodpeckers.
Wet valley systems provide ideal conditions for ferns and pendulous sedge. In a dry, flat county like Essex such habitats are rare.
Three ponds in the northern section also contain valuable wildlife communities. Pale pink Water Violet flowers in early June, with Bog-Bean and Skullcap around the edges. Woodland butterflies, Brimstone, Orange-tip and Speckled Wood benefit from sunny openings in the woodland like glades and ponds, where the increase in flowers provides a rich source of nectar.
For further information visit Norsey Wood Society
List of plants and wildlife in Norsey Wood
|Plant and wildlife types||Images|
The Bluebell carpet which covers the woodland floor between April and May is a fantastic spectacle.
The Bluebell is a protected species, with its brightly coloured bell-shaped flowers, does not easily colonise new woodlands.
This endangered species is very secretive, nocturnal and is the only mouse-sized rodent to have a fluffy tail.
Coppicing creates the ideal habitat for this mammal which uses aerial walkways of low branches when foraging for berries, nuts and insects.
An oak can contain up to 300 different types of insects and its acorns provide a good source of food for birds and animals. Both common and sessile oak are found in the wood.
The common oak is also called the pedunculate oak due to the long stalks, called peduncules, on which it bears its acorns. The acorns on the sessile oak are stalk less, shorter and rounder.
Greater Spotted Woodpecker
This bird can often be heard drumming its bill on a dead branch to establish its territory.
The Greater Spotted Woodpecker is black and white with a red patch under its tail and nests in a chamber hollowed out in a tree trunk.
This fungus is also called birch polypore and lives on the silver birch tree. It is a bracket fungus and is light brown on top and white underneath.
The fungus dries very hard and was once used for sharpening razors hence its common name. It is not edible and kills trees.
Often seen in gardens, especially feeding on buddleia. When resting it has its wings closed, but will open and close them rapidly, flashing their bright colours to confuse and alarm predators.
The adults emerge from hibernation on the first warm spring days. Their eggs are laid on the caterpillars favoured food plant, stinging nettles!
A large bulky wading bird with short legs, a very long straight bill and a wing span of up to 65cm. It is largely nocturnal, spending most of the day in dense cover.
The Woodcock population has been falling in recent years, which may be because of the lack of suitable breeding areas.
Further information and enquiries
- Norsey Wood Society
- Norsey Wood Nature Reserve Management Plan 2020-2025 (PDF) [327KB] (opens new window)
- Forestry Commission - Norsey Wood Nature Reserve - Countryside Stewardship Management Agreement 2018-27 (PDF) [316KB] (opens new window)
Enquiries please to the Countryside Ranger, see contact details below...
The Countryside Ranger
- The Countryside Ranger
- Norsey Woods Information Centre
- Outwood Common Road
- CM11 1HA
- United Kingdom
- Telephone01277 624553