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. Follow the 'rides' and visit such places as Portingbury Hills. Look out for evidence of coppicing. The area around Portingbury Hills can be become very muddy in later autumn and winter so this walk is best enjoyed from April to October. Please note that there are no longer any way-markers for this trail. During the winter months you will have to book your parking for weekends and school holidays.

'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, Operations Manager, Hatfield Forest.


Forest Walk


Shell House, grid ref: TL540197


Starting from in front of the Shell House, cross the dam at the end of the lake and join the boardwalk heading into the coppice. After about 70m, cross a small bridge and then take the left fork for a short distance before turning right onto a short stub of the boardwalk. Follow a trail through the trees, bearing gradually right, until you emerge into more open ground and reach a five bar gate, next to a pedestrian gate. Look out for a group of conifers on the right, just before you reach this gate: 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, bearing left, skirt the marsh area. 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, through the Gravel Pit, a small area of hillocks and hollows, following the path between short wooden posts. Note the change in the underlying soil - most of the rest of the Forest is heavy London clay. In springtime, look out for orchids. The snmall plantation to your right is beech. Bear right and uphill, aiming for the bend in the entrance road. Cross the road, aiming for the further side of the small plantation of sweet chestnuts..

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Tormentil in Hatfield Forest


Bearing left, skirt around the top of the sweet chestnut plantation, aiming for a gap in the trees. Continue downhill across the hummocky ground, looking out for large disused badger sets, now colonised by rabbits, as well as large ant hills, which are home to the yellow meadow ant. Cross Shermore Brook using the small wooden bridge.

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A view of Old London Road at Hatfield Forest


Continue uphill from the bridge, across open ground, taking a right fork about half way up. Turn left as you approach the trees and then after a short distance, turn right into a narrow ride, to enter Beggarshall Coppice. This can become quite muddy. Continue for about 300m, passing open ground on your right. This is Portingbury Hills. Look out for low mounds and ditches. These are the visible remains of a small settlement, originally thought to be of Iron Age origin but now believed to be medieval.

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A view of coppiced wood at Hatfield Forest


At the cross roads, turn left and follow the ride, past a tree in the middle of the ride, until you reach a wider ride. Turn left again and follow the wide ride past two trees in the middle of the ride. Just beyond this, bear to the right, heading for the main open plain. Look out for young pollarded trees.

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A typical 'Ride' in Hatfield Forest


On emerging into the main plain, head towards a large isolated horse chestnut tree, by the side of the main estate road, just beyond the rising bend. Look for the newly exposed views of the lake through the thinned out trees.

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A specimen horse chestnut standing by the main estate road


At the horse chestnut, turn right across the road and then walk on the grassy margin by the newly cleared ground. Admire the views towards the lake which have been revealed by this work. Head for the hitching post and then the pedestrian gate, next to the five bar gate, leading into the cafe parkland. Turn left and make for the old oak tree. This particular one is about 450 years old and its base is protected by a low railing. Walk around the outside of the railing and finish back at the Shell House. Reward yourself at the café - a cup of tea and perhaps a bite to eat? (Please note the present map shows an earlier route for this final stage - please ignore)

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the restored parkland by the cafe


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