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Explore Essex's second largest area of common land after Epping Forest, a survivor of a lost way of life

Lose yourself in 214 acres of heath, gorse and coppice encompassing a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), ancient woodland and military defences designed to give Napoleon a run for his money.

The woodlands of Danbury and Lingwood Commons hide their 107 metre high ridge-top location on one of Essex's highest hills. For centuries, self-sufficient commoners under the Lord of the Manor's watchful eye came here to graze their domestic animals, cutting down scrub and trees for fuel and creating an open landscape. Today we carefully manage the common in a similar way using simulated grazing by tractor to encourage the growth of rare flora and fauna.

See if you can trace clues to the common’s unlikely use as a centre of military operation. From early times, Danbury's elevated position between the Crouch and Blackwater estuaries has been turned to strategic defence and army encampment. Between 1780 and 1815 threat came with the Napoleonic Wars whilst the First and Second World Wars saw the area used extensively as training grounds.

Don't miss exploring Blakes Wood, an ancient woodland on a sloping site spanning 100 acres of clear streams, valleys, mighty oaks, chestnuts and coppiced hornbeam. In spring our woodland floor is a riot of colourful wild flowers, including one of the best bluebell displays in the area, primrose and yellow archangel.

On the south-western edge of Danbury is Backwarden Nature Reserve, leased to Essex Wildlife Trust who manage a block of nearly 250 acres on Danbury Ridge; a mosaic of woodland, common and heath, streams and bogs. This is a great place to look out for wild flowers, reptiles (including adders), nesting birds and insects.

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