Out and about walking in Basildon Conservation Areas
I count myself very fortunate to live just 10 minutes’ walk away from some of most wonderful woodland that you can walk a dog through.
Pat and I have taken to taking our beautiful little Springer Spaniel on holiday with us and although the walks in Suffolk, Cornwall and the Lakes have been very good you are always beset with signs and notices that restrict where you can go. “NO DOGS”, “PRIVATE LAND – KEEP OUT”, “ORDANANCE SURVEY IS WRONG YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO ENTER OR CROSS”, “TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED” are just some of the common signs that frustrate and annoy.
The places where you can actually enter and go where you will are often quite well hidden and quite small. The land near where I live in Lee Chapel is open to the public and you are welcome to wander in provided you obey some simple rules (which summed up means don’t spoil anybody else’s visit) and explore and enjoy. The Basildon Conservation areas comprise almost 500 acres and it will take you a considerable amount of time to see most of it.
I have been exploring Mark’s Hill (previously known as The Long Wood), Willow Park, The Plot lands (behind Tesco’s), One Tree Hill, Westley Heights, etc. for about 11 years now and I have NOT seen it all yet. I have on occasions got a bit lost and spent more time than I meant to BUT that is another story.
The NHS have signposted a lot of the walks (see picture below) and there are choices between easy and wild side routes to take. If you are going to ‘venture in’ then it is best to stay to established pathways and not to be initially too adventurous before you know your way around a bit. Be sensible with footware, you do need stout boots or shoes as you will be walking on gravel or brick / concrete or grass and it can be quite muddy in places. Also take a mobile phone just in case you should get lost and a drink if you intend being a long while especially on a hot summer’s day. Not everyone is happy or feels secure on their own (especially with not many other people about) so it is probably a good idea for most people to go on one of these walks as part of a small group.
Willow Park especially (my recommended place to start) has something for everyone as it has areas with play equipment for youngsters, bridleways for horse riding, signposted cycle paths and there are a few (very sparse) seats where you can take a bit of a rest if you need one. It also boasts Kingston Ridge Scout Camp and the Lee Chapel South Fishing Club has a fishing lake. So there is a wide diversity of things to see. If you venture out with a dog then you will find that other people with dogs will talk to you as you have a very obvious thing in common. HOWEVER I have met a lot of very interesting people who are not dog walkers and two that spring to mind include a man with a hunting Hawk (very interesting, if you like that sort of thing) and a whole troop of Scouts from Poland who were keen to know about the route to take to Gloucester Park Swimming Pool.
The wildlife abounds and you will get to see Woodpeckers, Badgers, Rabbits and Foxes. Very occasionally you get glimpses of more rare ones like The Cuckoo, Muntjac deer, Pheasants and the odd very proud and solitary Owl. Bats are often about at twilight and you will get to know what the best time to see (or avoid) such creatures is. There are some adders in the summer and best to keep your dog on the lead where they are known to be. In all the years I have visited WillowPark I have only ever been near an adder once (and he was asleep in the sun) and mostly they just slither silently away from you when they hear you coming.
I visit at all the seasons and the walks become very beautiful at certain times. Any snow and the landscape does become quite stunning. The blue bells in the early spring form great luxurious carpets and are quite something to see. My wife Pat particularly loves these and spends a lot of time just taking in the sight of them. I have tried taking photographs over the years of my walks and a small selection of them are shown below. The photographs very rarely do justice to the actual scene that I tried to capture and my advice is grab some boots, set aside some time and venture in, you will enjoy it.
Beautiful Colours in the spring.
If you do not want to venture in for any reason then you can walk down the paths that are surrounding the areas. Shown left is the path adjacent to Mark’s Hill (Mandeville way) where you can walk and enjoy the countryside whilst having the company of the many passing motorists