Hadleigh Country Park
Not only one of the UK's top mountain biking courses, Hadleigh Park offers something for everyone – idyllic countryside, magnificent views, a café and important historical sites.
At a glance
At Hadleigh Country Park we are undertaking a programme of scrub clearance to restore nationally important grasslands on the Benfleet and Southend Marshes, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Read more
We are also undertaking activity in support of Great Crested Newts at Hadleigh Marshes, with a series of ditch restoration and pond creation works.
A variety of fruit trees are being planted at Hadleigh to create a community orchard to benefit both wildlife and community. Read more.
*Grazing Goats and Cows*
We’re excited to welcome a new herd of grazing goats to Hadleigh Country Park. These goats are an important part of our natural land management programme and a rare breed which we are helping to conserve. The goats are wearing collars which generate a ‘virtual fence’ which will keep them in certain areas of the park.
We also have a beautiful herd of grazing red poll cattle at Hadleigh.
Please be aware that dogs must be in control in these areas and should be put on a lead to keep all animals safe.
Hadleigh Country Park is proud to be the recipient of the Green Flag Award. Read more here. Please visit safely. Always:
- Keep dogs under control
- Respect other users on multi-use trails
- Be water aware and supervise children and dogs near ponds, rivers and lakes
- Note that swimming is prohibited
- Keep off the ice in the winter
One of the largest green spaces in Essex, Hadleigh Park offers something for everyone including idyllic countryside, magnificent views over the Thames Estuary, important historical features and excellent cycling trails.
Since hosting the Mountain Biking during the London 2012 Olympics, Hadleigh Country Park has developed into top sporting venue with one of the best mountain bike courses in the country at its heart.
Combining a 400-space car park, cafe, bike hire, walking and cycling trails as well as kid’s play area and pump track, there is plenty of room and opportunity for everyone to get active whatever their age and fitness level.
There are wide stretches of beautiful open spaces for picnics and wildlife watching, and a variety of activities such as archery or kayaking run at the park during the summer months.
Each season bring something new. In spring, the bluebells, archangel and celandine put on a magnificent display. Summer sees the meadows in bloom with scores of butterflies drifting over, ideal for a picnic. In autumn, blackberries and sloes are a great attraction. Winter brings large flocks of birds and perhaps a chance to go sledging!
We’re excited to welcome a new herd of grazing goats to Hadleigh Country Park. These goats are an important part of our natural land management programme, and a rare breed which we are helping to conserve. The goats are wearing collars which generate a ‘virtual fence’ to keep them in certain areas of the park.
We also have a beautiful herd of red poll cattle grazing in the park to help maintain our grasslands areas. Please be aware that dogs must be in control in these areas and should be put on a lead to keep all animals safe.
Step back and glimpse history at the replica Iron Age roundhouse adjacent to the car park or take a pleasant one km walk to visit the impressive 13th century ruin of Hadleigh Castle.
Close by, the Salvation Army’s Hadleigh Farm with its tea rooms and rare breed centre has been supporting community members to develop employment skills for over 100 years.
Hadleigh Country Park was created when the original Hadleigh Country Park, which has been here for many years, was combined with land owned by The Salvation Army to create a partnership which would keep the 2012 Olympic Mountain course open for the public to use.
The project also provided the site with a new Hub Building, where the cafe, toilets and Bike shop create a great community space at the park.
The Iron Age Roundhouse was built between September 2007 and Autumn 2008 by Hadleigh Park staff, the house has since been used for school visits to study the Iron Age and Romans.
Hadleigh Castle sits on the hill to the South East of the Olympic Mountain Bike Venue. The Castle build was started in about 1215 by Hubert de Burgh but was extensively re-fortified by Edward III. Access along the Thames from London was probably the main method of transport to the castle.
For a more in-depth history of Hadleigh Castle, head to the English Heritage Website.
Hadleigh Farm – The Salvation Army
Hadleigh Farm was originally part of William Booth’s, “Darkest England” scheme. This involved people from what he referred to as the, “submerged tenth” being helped and in some cases rescued by Salvationists.
Originally, the farmland around Hadleigh was notorious for its poor quality and was known locally as the, “Hadleigh badlands.” William Booth chose the location as it was within reasonable distance of London where the City Colony was based and had access to water and a railway.
1891 saw the start of building William Booth’s vision on Hadleigh Farm. In just 9 months the farm went from 48 volunteers from the East End to nearly 250. The Salvation Army can also offer further information on the History of Hadleigh Farm.
The 2012 Olympics
Back in 2012 over 40,000 spectators flocked to the park over two days to watch the world’s best mountain bikers compete for gold at the London 2012 Olympic Mountain Bike events.
The 5km circuit situated on open hillside was a new concept for Mountain Bike events, which are typically held in forested areas. Largely man-made, it featured dramatic drops across imported boulders and tight twisting climbs. In total, 500 tonnes of rock and 3,500 tonnes of crushed stone were used in its creation.
Events were held as straight forward races around the course with the riders all starting together, the winner being the first to cross the finish line. The Men’s event saw 50 competitors complete a distance of 40-50km (25-30 miles) and the Women’s event saw 30 riders complete a distance of 30-40km (20-25 miles). Typically each race lasted around 1 hour 30mins to 1 hour 45mins with 6-7 laps ridden and 1.7kms of climbing per lap.
Following the games, the Active Essex team and Essex County Council have worked closely with the local community to preserve this great sporting legacy, creating a World class Sports facility that is now open for everyone to enjoy.
You too can now experience the thrill of visiting and riding at an Olympic venue.
Read and Count with Me Under a Tree. Borrow a book bag in the park! Read more here.
Ranging from 1km Family Trail to 9km Loop of Park.
Walking at Hadleigh Park covers varied terrain and can take you through trees, pasture, meadows and marsh. You can also enjoy spotting and identifying fauna and flora, including many rare species. Our walking trails have been recently resurfaced to make them more accessible for people who use electric wheelchairs and mobility scooters.
Here are a couple of walks of around 90 minutes:
- Round trip to Hadleigh Castle: From Chapel Lane car park, walk downhill until you reach the marsh, turn left towards the castle and follow the path until you reach the farm track, rising steeply to the castle. To return to Chapel Lane car park, head out of the castle towards the Salvation Army tea rooms and follow the road with the white houses - Sea View Terrace - to a farm track which takes you to the park’s entrance.
- Sea wall walk: A level walk from Benfleet to Leigh-on-Sea offers magnificent views over the downs and Benfleet Creek. Enter through Benfleet Moorings near Benfleet railway station, or next to the golf driving range near Leigh-on-Sea station.
Ranging from family friendly trails to Olympic standard trails and features.
Bike Hire and Shop on site
Call the shop: 01702 875431
Hadleigh Park was home to mountain biking at the 2012 Olympics. Since the games, the trails have been maintained and more added to suit all abilities. The tracks are free to ride.
The Olympic Mountain Bike course is made from crushed sandstone and was designed to test the best athletes in the world. It consists of almost 1.7km of climb per lap and has a number of sharp technical decent and climbs.
The course has been split into three trails, Blue, Red and Black with blue being the easiest and black being the most difficult.
If you would like to join a mountain bike work party and help maintain the trails please email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
This are provides a series of rolling features and berms to test your ability to ‘pump’ speed from the trail. Older Children can change their weight distribution on the bike to generate speed from the features by pushing downwards with their arms and legs on the back sides of the features without having to use their pedals. However it can also be used younger children on balance bikes to improve their skills whilst learning to ride.
This area is designed to help you develop and practice your bike handling skills and improve your riding technique. The Skills Area is graded ‘Orange’ which means it is suitable for off-road cyclists ranging from beginners to experts. There is a Teaching Area and 8 features for people to try: Rock Steps, Berms, Tabletops, Drop-offs, Rock Causeway, Technical Climb, Rock Garden and Rock Rolls.
The play park offers a fun and interactive area for children aged up to 9. Children can climb, swing and slide as well as enjoy our balance bike track for those early bike enthusiasts and future Olympians! The park has been very well designed with soft floor covering most of the play area to help cushion those unexpected falls.
Riders can enjoy the peace and quiet of the countryside without encountering a road. There are stunning views of the Thames Estuary and on a good day as far as Southend Pier and the World War II anti-aircraft defence towers. We ask that horse riders stay on the designated routes.
Water activities on the reservoir
We offer stand up paddle boarding and swimming on the reservoir at Hadleigh Country Park. All sessions must be booked through the third parties below, we do not allow individuals to access the reservoir independently.
Stand up paddleboarding (SUP)
Saltwater SUP offer a selection of SUP activities at Hadleigh Country Park. From taster sessions, family bookings, freestyle sessions and fitness/technique classes - they cater to all abilities and can help you build on your skills. All sessions must be booked in advance and SUP boards are available to hire.
Hadleigh Plungers regularly meet to swim on the reservoir twice a week. Get in touch for further information. Hadleighplungers@gmail.com
Showers & Toilets
Public toilets are available within the park, including disabled and baby changing facilities at The Hub.
Showers are available to book for event use.
Bike Hire & Shop
Buy or hire bikes and must have equipment at the onsite bike shop.
The bike wash is located near the car park and main building. It is a coin operated system and costs £2 per wash.
Hadleigh Park has been adapted so that it is accessible for all.
The walking trails have been re-surfaced meaning that electric wheelchairs and mobility scooters can now access them.
There are disabled toilets on site as well as 12 disabled car parking spaces.
Hadleigh Park offers a range of venue hire options, including outdoor events, corporate events and our bright and modern meeting facilities.
Are you looking to immerse yourself in a rural woodland setting and reconnect with all that nature has to offer? If so, Essex Glamping has the perfect blend of glamping (Luxury Camping) with heaps of fun filled activities that will give you the best glamping and rural camping experience on offer.
Essex Glamping at Hadleigh Park is a unique partnership between RW Leisure & Glamping Limited and Essex County Council and offers something for everyone. Visit www.glampinginessex.co.uk for more information.
Shop, Eat & Drink
Shop, Eat & Drink
The Hub Café, run by The Salvation Army
Monday to Sunday, 9.30am to 4.30pm for takeaways and outdoor dining.
Indoor dining from 17 May.
The Hub Café sources local seasonal produce. They create freshly prepared, homemade food on the premises daily. Including salads, graze boxes, hot pastries, pies and chips, alongside a selection of hot and cold drinks.
Vegetarian and vegan options available.
Featured events at Hadleigh Country Park
From mid-September, artists Walter and Zoniel present an ambitious public art project across Essex green spaces.
- Dates: September 15, 2023 - April 30, 2024
- Venue: Hadleigh Country Park
- For the whole family
- Price: FREE