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Essex, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire

Enjoy a day out amongst an ancient forest or discover age-old traditions in a number of quaint, quiet villages in the counties of Essex, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.

Places to visit

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Top places to visit in Essex, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire

Sheep grazing at Dunstable Downs, Bedfordshire
Place
Place

Dunstable Downs and Whipsnade Estate 

Dunstable Downs is within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The highest point in Bedfordshire, from here you can enjoy views of a landscape that has been sculpted over time.

Dunstable, Bedfordshire

Fully open today
The Easter Chapel at Whipsnade Tree Cathedral, Bedfordshire in spring
Place
Place

Whipsnade Tree Cathedral 

This incredible tree cathedral, made from trees, shrubs and plants, was created after the First World War in the spirit of 'faith, hope and reconciliation'.

Dunstable, Bedfordshire

Fully open today
The woodland during summer at Sharpenhoe Clappers, Sharpenhoe, Bedfordshire
Place
Place

Sharpenhoe 

An ancient woodland and chalk escarpment, crowned with traces of an Iron Age hillfort.

Streatley, Bedfordshire

Fully open today
the image shows a lone cyclist riding amongst the buttercups on Takeley Hill
Place
Place

Hatfield Forest National Nature Reserve 

Shaped by people over centuries and home to the rarest species of wildlife and oldest ancient trees, no other forest on earth evokes the atmosphere of a medieval hunting Forest so completely.

Bishop's Stortford, Essex

Fully open today
Close up of the exterior of Bourne Mill
Place
Place

Bourne Mill 

A picturesque watermill with working waterwheel a short stroll from the centre of Colchester.

Colchester, Essex

Closed now
A view of the exterior of Paycocke's House in Colchester in Essex
Place
Place

Paycocke's House and Garden 

Book a guided experience around this perfectly formed Tudor merchant's house whose walls have more than a few stories to tell.

Colchester, Essex

Fully open today
The exterior of Grange Barn in sunshine, Essex
Place
Place

Grange Barn 

One of Europe's oldest timber-framed buildings, Grange Barn stands as a lasting reminder of the once powerful Coggeshall Abbey.

Colchester, Essex

Closed now
Couple walking with their dog on Danbury Common, Essex
Place
Place

Danbury Commons and Blakes Wood 

Explore Essex's second largest area of common land.

Danbury, Essex

Fully open today
Visitors exploring the chalk downland at Ashridge Estate, Hertfordshire
Place
Place

Ashridge Estate 

Ashridge Estate is a 5,000 acre area of the Chiltern Hills, with ancient trees, rolling chalk downlands and lush meadows in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Near Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire

Fully open today
Visitors in the garden at Shaw's Corner, Hertfordshire
Place
Place

Shaw's Corner 

Join a guided tour of Shaw's Corner and learn more about its owner, playwright George Bernard Shaw, who lived here for 44 years.

near Welwyn, Hertfordshire

Fully open today
View of the causeway across the Blackwater Estuary to Northey Island, Maldon, Essex, at low tide.
Place
Place

Northey Island 

The closest you'll get to true wilderness in Essex

Maldon, Essex

Fully open today

Outdoor entertainment in Essex, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire

Solstice in the Forest logo

Solstice in the Forest: Fri 21 Jun 

Come together for a magical evening of music, food and dancing with your closest family and friends at Hatfield Forest. For one night only, immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the lakeside while the enchanting sounds of folk music provide the soundtrack to the sunset on the longest day of the year.

Visitors watching a live outdoor theatre performance at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire

The Adventures of Doctor Dolittle, Hatfield Forest: Fri 5 Jul 

Helped by his wise old parrot, Doctor Dolittle makes an extraordinary discovery: that he can talk to animals. A funny, exciting family musical performed outdoors by the incomparable Illyria.

View from behind two visitors seated in deckchairs as part of the audience at the Illyria Theatre Company's production of Ali Baba & the Forty Thieves at Dudmaston, Shropshire

Hamlet by The Lord Chamberlains Men, Hatfield Forest: Tue 25 June 

Join The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, in their 20th year, for Hamlet, the greatest play in the English language. With a history stretching back to William Shakespeare’s original company, they present this great play as he first saw it – in the open air.

Outdoor theatre at Shaw's Corner

Mrs Warren's Profession, Shaw's Corner: Fri 26 and Sat 27 Jul 

With his home at the backdrop, The Shaw Society are proud to sponsor an exciting new production of the infamous Bernard Shaw play, Mrs Warren's Profession, from award-winning theatre company SHAW2020.

The Illyria Theatre Company performing The Merry Wives of Windsor at Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire

Treasure Island, Grange Barn: Wed 31 Jul 

Join Jim Hawkins on his adventures following a treasure map. Jim and his friends join the band of Pirates and embark across the seas to find Treasure Island. It’s a race against time as both Jim and Long John Silver eagerly search for the Treasure.

Outdoor Theatre

The Tale of Jemima Puddle Duck, Hatfield Forest: Wed 7 Aug 

Quantum Theatre presents a delightful new adaptation of Beatrix Potter’s much-loved tale. Prevented from hatching her eggs at the farm, foolish Jemima goes in search of a nesting place in the forest and soon she meets a charming ‘gentleman’ who offers her the perfect nesting place in his wood-shed.

Audience members enjoying an open-air theatre performance in the garden at Shugborough Estate, Staffordshire

Treasure Island, Shaw's Corner: Sat 18 Aug 

With Shaw's Corner as the backdrop, DOT Productions presents their swashbuckling family show: ‘Treasure Island’. With songs, pirates and laughter, follow Jim Hawkins on his adventures!

Actors on stage for a live performance of 'The Secret Garden' at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire

The Hound of the Baskervilles, Hatfield Forest: Fri 6 Sep 

Sherlock Holmes tackles the most baffling case of his career in this cheeky but chilling adaptation. Performed in the great outdoors by Illyria, prepare for an evening of mystery and things that go ‘grrrr’ in the night!

Walks to enjoy in Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire this summer

Get walking this summer on some of these top picks.

Woman and two children walking along path with tall grass and hills to either side
Trail
Trail

Dunstable Downs countryside walk 

Follow this circular route through Dunstable Downs, discovering diverse wildlife, ancient tracks and burial mounds. Visit the Icknield Way and the ramparts of Maiden Bower, a Neolithic hillfort.

Activities
Walking
DistanceMiles: 6.5 (km: 10.4)
Woodland pasture carpeted in buttercups
Trail
Trail

Hatfield Forest buttercup walk 

In May and June, the plains at Hatfield Forest are turned into a sea of gold by over 300 million buttercups. It's the perfect time to enjoy this 3.4-mile walk.

Activities
Walking
DistanceMiles: 3.4 (km: 5.44)
A close view of the windows and the plasterwork on the exterior of Paycocke's House, Colchester, Essex
Trail
Trail

Paycocke's Tudor Coggeshall walk 

Get a fascinating insight into Tudor life on this circular walk through Coggeshall from Paycocke's House.

Activities
Walking
DistanceMiles: 2.5 (km: 4)
A path snaking through woodland at sunset with orange light dappling through the branches
Trail
Trail

Danbury Common to Lingwood Common walk 

An easy, 1.5 mile walk through wetlands, wooded glades and open heathland, that makes an ideal family walk.

Activities
Walking
DistanceMiles: 1.5 (km: 2.4)

The coast

Refresh the mind and blow away the cobwebs as you explore the Essex coast.

A view along the coastline of Northey Island, Essex
Article
Article

Plan your visit to Northey Island 

Plan your visit to Northey Island, and discover what you can see and do while you're there.

Woman with a dog at Copt Hall Marshes, Essex
Article
Article

Explore Copt Hall Marshes 

Explore Copt Hall Marshes, a wildlife-rich working farm on the Blackwater Estuary, part of the extensive Essex coastline.

Latest news and projects

A yellow digger stands behind a grey wooden fence which separates it from a newly created pond in the foreground
Press release
Press release

Remote Essex island ‘lets the sea in’ to create new saltmarsh in fight against climate change 

Major works to create and retain swathes of new saltmarsh habitat on a remote Essex island have reached a major milestone, providing a lifeline for the land and its wildlife in a changing climate and in light of rising sea levels.

A flock of dark-bellied brent geese on Northey Island, Essex
Press release
Press release

Numbers of protected birds soar to new record after overhead power lines are removed on remote Essex island 

National Trust rangers at Northey Island in Essex, with support from volunteers, have recorded record numbers of two protected bird species following the re-routing of the island’s power infrastructure.

Protective track mats in midst of trees in ancient woodland at Ashridge Estate
Press release
Press release

National Trust's largest ancient woodland set to be restored on a scale rarely seen 

A major restoration project is underway at the National Trust’s largest ancient woodland, Ashridge Estate in Hertfordshire, to improve the site’s prospects for wildlife and protect its diverse habitats, which are home to many species that are endangered or in decline.

Project
Project

Coastal adaptation project at Northey Island 

Learn about the major conservation work we’re carrying out at Northey Island in partnership with the RSPB to restore and retain vital saltmarsh habitat in the Blackwater Estuary.

Project
Project

Ashridge Estate - Protecting Our Roots 

We are looking at making changes to the infrastructure across the estate to help manage the careful balance of increased visitor numbers with the impact on nature. Read about the 'Protecting Our Roots' project and find out more about our vision for the future of Ashridge Estate.

Get involved

Volunteer ranger hedgelaying at Kingston Lacy, Dorset

Volunteering in Essex, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire 

Making new friends, working in amazing places, and knowing that you're helping a cause you care about – just three great reasons to volunteer with the National Trust in Essex, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.

Visitors on a guided nature walk at Sharpenhoe Clappers, Sharpenhoe, Bedfordshire
Article
Article

Supporter groups in Essex, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire 

There are a number of supporter groups in Essex, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire. Find out more about what they do and how you can join one near you.

Travelling to National Trust places without a car

Family on a bike ride in autumnal woods, looking at a map
Article
Article

Sustainable travel in Essex, Beds and Herts 

There are a number of sustainable options for travelling to and from the places in our care in Essex, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, whether you’re looking to travel by train, bus, bike or foot. Here’s a little more information that can help you plan your visit.

Upcoming events

Event

A Common Way: Solstice Spell 

Hatfield Forest, Bishop's Stortford, Essex

Cast a spell for the Forest by contributing your offerings of care to our colourful solstice altar.

Event summary

on
21 Jun 2024
at
14:00 to 16:00
Event

Traditional Afternoon Tea at the View Café 

Dunstable Downs and Whipsnade Estate, Dunstable, Bedfordshire

Treat yourself to a traditional afternoon tea overlooking the Downs.

Event summary

on
21 Jun to 31 Jul 2024
at
14:00 to 16:30
+ 28 other dates or times
Event

Solstice in the Forest 

Hatfield Forest, Bishop's Stortford, Essex

Join us to celebrate the start of summer in the heart of Hatfield Forest.

Event summary

on
21 Jun 2024
at
17:00 to 23:00
Event

Saturday Night at the Shaw's 

Shaw's Corner, near Welwyn, Hertfordshire

Get up close and personal to Bernard and Charlotte's fabulous art collection.

Event summary

on
22 Jun 2024
at
18:00 to 21:00
Event

Breathwork in the Forest 

Hatfield Forest, Bishop's Stortford, Essex

A relaxing breathwork class, designed to calm the nervous system, clear tension from within and provide space to connect back to the mind, body and soul.

Event summary

on
23 Jun to 29 Sep 2024
at
09:15 to 10:15
+ 13 other dates or times
Event

Hamlet by The Lord Chamberlains Men 

Hatfield Forest, Bishop's Stortford, Essex

Join The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, in their 20th year, for Hamlet, the greatest play in the English language. With a history stretching back to William Shakespeare’s original company, they present this great play as he first saw it – in the open air.

Event summary

on
25 Jun 2024
at
19:00 to 21:00
Event

Heritage Day 

Dunstable Downs and Whipsnade Estate, Dunstable, Bedfordshire

Dunstable Downs has a fascinating history, and it’s time we shouted about it! Join the celebration on 29 June.

Event summary

on
29 Jun 2024
at
10:30 to 16:00
Event

1920s Weekend 

Paycocke's House and Garden, Colchester, Essex

Join the Companye of Merrie Folke as they turn the clock back to 1924 and celebrate the roaring 20s at Paycocke's.

Event summary

on
29 Jun to 30 Jun 2024
at
11:00 to 16:00
+ 1 other date or time
Visitors exploring the sand dunes and the woodland at Formby, Liverpool

Where will you visit next?

Discover lots of gardens, historic houses, days out at the coast and more.