Norsey Wood Local Nature Reserve
In the town of Billericay, Essex, you can explore Norsey Wood Local Nature Reserve, an ancient woodland with a rich history. This reserve is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and features an information centre, guided tours, and a craft display. Throughout the year, the reserve hosts a number of events and exhibitions. Visitors can also learn about local wildlife at the reserve’s educational centre.
The ancient settlement of Norsey Wood dates back to the Middle Ages, when the abbot of the nearby Norsey Abbey received a royal licence to sell timber from the woodland. This suggests the need for a substantial boundary to protect the wood from straying animals. In addition, this ancient woodland was once part of the Royal Forest, which covered much of southern Essex. The abbot was responsible for the development of the wood and found evidence of a flaked-flint axehead that was thrown into the pit.
A 67.2 acre site that is also a Scheduled Monument and Local Nature Reserve, Norsey Wood is a rich source of biodiversity. With its ancient oak woodland, it was protected in 1976 and is now a mixed sweet chestnut coppice. Bluebell is dominant in the ground layer, and sphagnum mosses can be found in acidic flushes. It contains nine types of dragonfly, a Bronze Age bowl barrow, Roman cemeteries, and a medieval deer bank.
The Billericay Wood Preservation Society was established in the 1970s by concerned Billericay residents who wanted to protect the wood from residential development. In 1976, the Basildon District Council purchased Billericay Wood and made it a local nature reserve. Since then, the society has partnered with the district council to protect the wood for future generations. The group now promotes the Wood by providing free admission to the public.
In the past, Norsey Wood was surrounded by earthworks. These boundary earthworks were constructed to keep animals out of the Wood, and are still visible in the southern part. In addition, it has three sequential versions of its boundary – the innermost one is extremely eroded, measuring barely half a metre in height. While this may be unattractive, it is important to note that the former boundary of the Wood has not been altered for several hundred years.Norsey Wood is home to a network of ancient trenches. This site was used during the First World War by the Local Defence Volunteers, and it formed part of an Inner London defence line. During the Second World War, it was also used for military training, and the “Dad’s Army” manned the trenches. Today, Norsey Wood is a popular cross-country and fitness park. Fitness enthusiasts often run circuits in the wood’s woods.