Forest walk at Hatfield Forest, Takeley, Essex

Walking trail

Enjoy the varied scenery on this National Trust circular walk at Hatfield Forest as you discover the sights that make it a National Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Trek the 'rides' and visit such places as Portingbury Hills and look out for evidence of coppicing. Numbers in brackets relate to way-markers en- route.

'If I had just 2 hours to visit Hatfield Forest, this is the one trail I would choose to take in most of its points of interest and marvel at its splendour,' Henry Bexley, National Trust Countryside Manager.The trails in the forest can become very muddy during Winter, so this walk is best enjoyed from April to October.


Map route for forest walk at Hatfield Forest


Shell House, grid ref: TL540197


From the rear of Shell House, follow the right-hand side of the lake and join a board-walked path for about 390 feet (120m). Turn left at the arrow-marker and follow lake until gate (5). Look out for a group of conifers: Scots, Corsican and Austrian pine, together with cedar of Lebanon.

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View of Shell House across the lake at Hatfield Forest


Pass through the gate (please shut behind you) and skirt the marsh area (6) . The marshland supports a wide variety of wildlife and plants, such as the tall plants called reed-mace, which provide a perch for reed buntings. Immediately after this area bear right, around the Gravel Pit, (7) a small area of hillocks and hollows. In springtime, look out for orchids. Bear right and cross the entrance road.

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Tormentil in Hatfield Forest


Bearing left skirt around the edge of Spittlemore Coppice. Continue downhill, looking out for large disused badger sets (8), now colonised by rabbits as well as large ant hills, which are home to the yellow meadow ant. Cross Shermore Brook using the horse bridge (9).

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A view of Old London Road at Hatfield Forest


Continue slightly left and enter the coppice (10), continuing for about 300m into Beggarshall Coppice (12), passing open ground on your right. This is Portingbury Hills. Look out for low mounds and ditches, which are visible remains of a small settlement, originally thought to be of Iron Age origin but now believed to be probably medieval.

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A view of coppiced wood at Hatfield Forest


Turn left and follow the ride until you reach a wider ride (13). Turn left again and follow the wide ride until reaching the open area of reclaimed wood pasture. Look out for young pollarded trees. Turn right and aim for the main estate road (14), you're now on the Main Plain.

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A typical 'Ride' in Hatfield Forest


Continue straight on to a large horse chestnut tree (15), by the side of the main estate road.

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Horse Chestnut No.15 on Hatfield Forest walk


Now cross the estate road and follow the path over the footbridge. Bear left and proceed through the gate, looking out for a 450-year-old oak. The base of this tree is protected by a ring of stakes. Walk around the outside of the stakes and finish back at the Shell House and café for a cup of tea and perhaps a bite to eat.

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Hatfield Forest 450-year old oak with Shell House in the background


Shell House, grid ref: TL540197

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Forest walk at Hatfield Forest, Takeley, Essex


A circular walk. The route runs alongside the lake and then through the Forest before heading back to the lake. Paths can be muddy after wet weather so boots may be necessary. No bins are provided. Please take your litter home.

Dogs are welcome, but please keep on leads near livestock, around the lake and wherever temporarily signed.

Forest walk at Hatfield Forest, Takeley, Essex

Contact us

Forest walk at Hatfield Forest, Takeley, Essex

How to get here

Hatfield Forest, Bush End Road, Takeley, Bishop's Stortford, Essex, CM22 6NE
By train

Closest stations are Bishops Stortford, 5 miles (8km) and Stansted Airport, 3 miles (4.8km) and thence by bus (see below).

By road

From M11, J8, take B1256 towards Takeley/Gt Dunmow. Follow signs at Takeley to Hatfield Forest.

By foot

Flitch Way (from Braintree), Three Forests Way and Forest Way all pass through the Forest.

By bus

The nearest bus stop is The Green Man at Takeley Street.  This is served by Arriva Route 508, from Harlow to Stansted Airport, via Bishops Stortord.  The Forest can then be entered at the northern end, through Takeley Hill gate.  

The bus stop at The Four Ashes, Takeley, has more services, to and from the airport bus station.  The Forest is then about 1 km away, along the Flitch Way.

By bicycle

Flitch Way from Braintree.

Forest walk at Hatfield Forest, Takeley, Essex

Facilities and access

  • National Trust Lakeside Café, licensed
  • Toilets, baby-changing and feeding facilities available
  • Car park (chargeable for non-NT members)
  • National Trust gift shop with plant sales
  • Dogs welcome – please keep on leads near livestock, around the lake and wherever temporarily signed