Hatfield Forest Golden Boots walk, Takeley, Essex
The plains at Hatfield Forest can be walked at any time of the year, but are carpeted by over 300 million buttercups in May and June; so this is the time to appreciate them at their best. This trail takes you through the best places to see the buttercups. There are so many, your boots will turn yellow!
The trails in the forest can become very muddy during Winter, so this walk is best enjoyed from April to October. In addition, we may have to close some parts of the route, even in summer, to allow the ground to recover. If so, an alternative will be provided.
Shell House car park, grid ref: TL547203
Starting at the gate to the lakeside area car park, walk to the far left-hand corner and take the path just past a wooden bench. This path can be very muddy at most times of the year. Follow this path until reaching a more open 'ride', with coppice on either side. There is a metal fence on your left. Keep walking uphill until you reach the end of the ride and you see a sheep grazing sign, then turn right and walk straight in a northerly direction.
Start of walk
This path can be quite muddy so good idea to wear suitable footwear.
Continue heading north along the main plain, passing a chestnut paling fence on your left. Cross over the gravel track (which leads to Forest Lodge, a private residence).
Walk past a group of dead horse chestnuts, which are on your right. From here you can see Warren Cottage - another private residence. Follow the gravel track from Warren Cottage and you will shortly reach an estate road. Turn left along this road downhill until reaching the stream with culvert (under the road).
The main plain stretches almost the entire length of Hatfield Forest. Warren Cottage was built in the 19th century from handmade red bricks, on the site of an earlier cottage built in the late 17th century. The horse chestnuts which were planted in the 1700s have succumbed to Phytophthora and bleeding canker. These trees have been monolithed (reduced to trunk without branches) by Forest staff to preserve the dead wood habitat. Hiding under the trees, obscured by scrub, are the remains of a medieval rabbit warren - a collection of linear pillow mounds.
Walk uphill on the grass beside the road, until reaching a point where the road bears to the right. Do not follow the road, but keeping to the grass walk straight ahead to a wide 'ride' in front of you. This is known as 'Halfway Ride'.
Continue along 'Halfway Ride' for about ½ mile (800m) to the end, (this may be muddy), and turn immediately right through the gate. You are now on Takeley Hill.
Takeley Hill is actually an area of wood pasture, with a slight slope. Here you will see an abundance of buttercups, along with Red Poll cattle. The cows do not eat the buttercups, so they flourish and re-seed each year.
Keeping to the tree line to your right, and looking out for grazing animals, walk straight ahead (south) following the distinct marked path in the grass until reaching the estate exit road. Cross over the road and continue in the same direction until reaching the estate entrance road.
Cross the road, and, in front of you, you should now see a boardwalk. Follow the boardwalk for 220yd (200m) or so, go through the gate and enter the woodland.
Follow the boardwalk to the end, passing the boat hire along the way. Continue along the dam, keeping the lake on your right until reaching the Shell House and café for a well-deserved cup of tea and perhaps a slice of cake!
The Shell House was built in about 1750 and decorated using British and tropical shells by Laetitia Houblon, in about 1757, when she was aged 17. It was used by the Houblon family for picnics until they sold the estate in 1923.
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