Belhus Woods Country Park
Over 300 acres in South Essex, Belhus Woods Country Park combines ancient woodland, kid's play area, meadows and lakes with a visitor centre and café.
At a glance
4 January 2021: England enters a national lockdown.
The parks, car parks, children's play equipment and toilets will remain open for the benefit of local communities. The Nightingale Cafe will continue to offer a takeaway service in-line with government guidance.
We ask that all visitors using the Essex Country Parks follow government guidelines and ensure you practice social distancing.
Check our full FAQs and plan your visit in advance.
Check government guidance here.
*Visitor Notice - Tree Works at Belhus Woods*
Over the next week the rangers will be felling some of the trees at Belhus Woods.
This habitat management technique is called coppicing, which is a traditional method of woodland management where trees are cut down and allowed to regrow from the stump. Coppicing has a side benefit of creating diversity in the woodload that allows a range of different plants, birds and insects to flourish.
During this activity some of our footpaths may be temporarily diverted, but you will still be able to access the whole park.
Set over 300 acres in South Essex, Belhus Woods Country Park combines ancient woodland and working woods, kid's play area, flower meadows, open grassland, fishing and conservation lakes.
It’s a great place to walk your dog, cycle, picnic by the lake, feed the ducks, go fishing or spot wildlife. There are many different activities throughout the year for families and nature enthusiasts alike, and a large fenced exercise field and dog agility area are situated on site.
Children will love the musical themed play area. Featuring multiple types of play for all ages, children can play musical instruments, climb and swing the hours away.
The play area is surrounded by a short grassland which is perfect for a picnic. There is seating available within the play area and around the edges. And plenty of trees to provide dappled shade and shelter.
Birdwatchers can discover interesting species in abundance at Belhus Woods. Bird life includes mute swans, tufted ducks, woodpeckers, kingfishers, kestrels and lapwings. In winter, you’ll see small flocks of finches, such as siskins and redpolls. Sand martins and nightingales are among the spring nesting birds on site.
Children love our musical themed play area. Featuring multiple types of play for all ages, children can play musical instruments, climb and swing the hours away. The play area is surrounded by a short grassland which is perfect for a picnic. There is also seating available within the play area and around the edges.
At Belhus Woods children can also enjoy story bags which are available from the visitor’s centre. These contain books, activity sheets and den building kits and can be used free of charge during your visit to the park.
Belhus Woods is perfect for dog walking with large trails through the woodland and round the lake. There is also a large fenced area and dog agility training area.
Belhus Woods is an accessible site for walking, with a flat terrain and open and denser areas of woodland. You can pass through many habitats, such as ancient woodland, coppice plantations and wildflower meadows and see our expansive lakes abundant in flora and fauna. It really does feel like you’re escaping the hustle and bustle.
Cycle paths at Belhus Woods take you through all kinds of surroundings, from grassland to meadows and lakes. The flat terrain makes it a great place for the novice cyclist and families, and the large car parks offer plenty of space to load and unload bikes.
Bike racks at the visitor centre make it easy to pop in and grab a drink or snack. Please note that we do have a height barrier into the entrance to the car park so if you have bikes on the top of your car you will need to come into the visitor centre and we will be happy to open it for you.
Birdwatching & Wildlife
Birdwatchers will find interesting species in abundance at Belhus Woods. Bird life includes mute swans, tufted ducks, woodpeckers, kingfishers, kestrels and lapwings. In winter, you’ll see small flocks of finches, such as siskins and redpolls.
Major tree species include English oak, field maple, hazel and hornbeam.
You’ll also see many beautiful wildflowers such as bluebell, early purple orchid and lily-of-the-valley.
West Essex Bowmen’s archery club is one of largest in country, meeting regularly in the field near the visitor centre, catering to all from beginners to advanced. Beginner courses are held over three Saturdays in April and September, with qualified coaches teaching safety and basic technique. Contact the club for more information: link
There are two large fishing lakes in the park. You can fish all year round with up to two rods but you must have a rod licence before you visit.
A daily permit is available to purchase here for £6 per rod or £3 per rod concession. If you fish regularly, come to the visitor centre and buy a season ticket for £100, or £55 concession. Bring two passport photos, your rod licence, proof of address and a form of ID.
Volunteering at Belhus Woods is hands-on and is a great way to meet people, learn about conservation, get a bit of exercise and make a difference to the woods. You'll get to have a go at many tasks, such as coppicing, charcoal making and creating habitats for a variety of different wildlife. Our weekly volunteer sessions are led by our Rangers on Thursday mornings from 9:30am til 12:30pm. If you are interested in joining us, please call 01708 865 628 or email email@example.com
Historic projects have identified traces of a prehistoric settlement on the site of the park dating back to the late Bronze age/early iron age.
Most of the area was cleared of its natural woodlands in or before the Roman era and has remained as farmland ever since.
During the Norman settlement it was retained as a working woodland and used for producing woodland products, grazing and hunting.
During the 15th to 20th centuries the Belhus Estate stood on the site and included the land that is now the golf course, where some remains of the foundation of the mansion can still be seen.
In the 1750's, the renowned landscaper Capability Brown planned the conversion of the meadows into a beautiful focal point referred to as the Long Pond. Unfortunately, this was divided into two by the building of the M25 but the rounder top half still exists and is home to newts and other wildlife.
Park mobility and accessibility
You can borrow one of our 4×4 (four-wheel drive) All-Terrain Tramper mobility scooters for free.
A member of the park team will provide some basic training on how to use the scooter and provide a number for you to quote when booking.
To book training and any future uses of the scooter please call 01708 865628 or come into the visitor centre.
Information on access to Belhus Woods Country Park can be found on AccessAble, formerly Disabled Go.
You can find public toilets near the car park and visitor centre. These include disabled and baby changing facilities.
Shop, Eat & Drink
The visitor centre at Belhus Woods Country Park offers visitors shelter, refreshments and a small selection of products to buy including duck food.
The Nightingale Cafe is open from 10am to 4pm on weekdays and weekends and is currently serving a reduced menu.
The cafe offers light refreshments such as ice creams, hot and cold drinks, snacks and sandwiches, toasties and sausage rolls, soup, teacakes and delicious sponge cakes.
Festive opening hours: the cafe is closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and will close at midday on New Years Eve.
You can also find a selection of toys and gifts, including binoculars for looking at the wildlife in the park in the shop.
Please note that barbecues are not allowed due to the risk of fire. Picnics are welcome.