Warley Place Nature Reserve

The scheduled visit to Warley Place Nature Reserve on 3rd March was cancelled due to the bad weather and it was while sitting watching the snow again later in March that we decided to make a visit during a break in the terrible weather. Thursday 22nd March started warm and sunny and six of us turned up at the Reserve. Taking the precaution of booking a table at the Thatchers Arms, a pub on the doorstep of the reserve, we set off.

The reserve was the estate of Ellen Willmott, an enormously wealthy woman in the 19th century. She took a keen interest in her gardens and was in contact with Gertrude Jekyll. At one time she employed 100 gardeners to look after the 25 acre estate. Sadly, the estate was left to decline in the 20th century until the Essex Wildlife Trust took over management. Since then, volunteers have worked hard to maintain and restore the site. There is no entrance fee, just a donation box.

We wandered along the well signposted paths, admiring the fields of daffodils, crocuses and snowdrops – Spring is the best time to visit the reserve – and the trees, some huge like the sweet chestnuts, some unusual like the Caucasian wingnut. In its day the estate had a boating lake but that is now just a hollow with the retaining walls surrounding. A cottage at the entrance is being carefully restored, complete with a wooden shingle roof. Very little remains of the original large house but there are pictures on signposts to give you an idea of how it looked.

A pleasant couple of hours was spent walking around the reserve. At times the wheelchair had to take an alternative route but a large part was accessible, although bumpy, but it wouldn’t be so accessible in the wet. We then adjourned to the Thatchers Arms to enjoy a very good lunch – homecooked food, not the usual microwaved variety – and a pint. And off home. A pleasant, cheap day out.

Brian U.  22nd March 2018