Weald Country Park
Famous for its deer park and Stick Man trail, Weald boasts spectacular views and space, covering over 520 acres of woodland, wildflower meadows and open grassland.
At a glance
At Weald Country Park, you can enjoy over 520 acres of woodland, lakes, hay and wildflower meadows, deer park, open grassland and spectacular views.
The park is well-loved for its wildlife and the famous Stick Man trail. Wildlife includes fallow deer, cattle, herons, mallard ducks and other water birds. There is also have a group of peacocks who come to visit most days.
Weald Country Park originated as a medieval deer park during the 12th century and now you can get up close to our resident herds in the deer enclosure. Deer and duck food are available to buy in the visitor’s centre. And feeding chutes are set-up around the enclosure for everyone to use.
The Stick Man play trail covers two kilometres of the park taking you past the deer enclosure, the lake and the grazing area. There are seven play areas to enjoy on the route with areas to climb, swing, crawl through and lay and enjoy watching the clouds go by.
At the end of your visit enjoy refreshments at the Wiggly Bush café and browse the shop for gifts.
Weald originated as a medieval deer park during the 12th century and is likely to have been associated with a manorial centre near St Peter’s Church.
It was the site of a great Tudor mansion from the 16th century and in the early 18th century plans were drawn up by the French landscape designer Bouginion, to improve the hall that was now on the site and its estate. The 1738 plan for the park was formal and geometric but was only partly executed.
From 1750 the estate was held by the Tower family until the Second World War and during the family’s ownership, the final character of the park was established. The house and park were under military occupation between 1943 to 1945 and suffered considerable damage. The hall was then demolished in 1951 following a fire.
In 1953 the park was purchased by Essex County Council to save it as open space for the public, and a programme of replanting the woods lost in the war began. In 1988 the Coxtie Green landfill site was added to the park. The park is a Grade 2 listed historic landscape.
The Essex Record Office reveal the hidden history of Weald Hall
In 1950, Weald Hall became one of the county’s country house casualties of the post-war period. Having been used by the military during World War II and badly damaged by fire, the house was pulled down. Soon afterwards the estate was purchased by Essex County Council and is today Weald Country Park.
Portions of the house dated back to the 16th century, although it had been substantially added to and remodelled over time. From the 11th century until 1540, the manor of South Weald was in the possession of Waltham Abbey. When the abbey was dissolved under Henry VIII, the manor was sold to Sir Brian Tuke. The Tuke family only owned the estate for eight years and in 1548 it was sold to Sir Antony Browne, who is the most likely candidate to have built the core of the 16th century property, about 100 metres northwest of the church.
Browne was a regular at the court of Henry VIII and founder of Brentwood School. He assisted Thomas Cromwell in engineering the downfall of Anne Boleyn and during the reign of Mary Tudor assisted with the persecution of Protestants. He had a busy personal life too; with his wife Alice he had seven sons and three daughters, as well as two illegitimate children and two children, who died in infancy, with his second wife, whom he married when he was about 42 and she was 15.
The estate remained in the Browne family for more than 100 years, but was sold in 1668 to Sir William Scroggs. Scroggs fought for the Royalists during the Civil War, and went on to have a long legal career, including as a lord chief justice. According to his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, he had ‘a reputation for debauchery, loose living and love of drink’.
Less than 20 years later, in 1685, the property was sold again, this time to a merchant, Erasmus Smith. The Smiths made substantial improvements to the house and grounds, and a map commissioned in 1738 shows a plan of the house surrounded by formal walled gardens and an extensive landscaped park.
The property next changed hands in 1752 when it was purchased by Thomas Tower. His son Christopher purchased more land to extend the park and softened the formal lines of the garden to keep up with 18th century fashions. He also commissioned Robert Adam to make changes to the hall’s interiors.
The estate passed through several generations of the Tower family, the last of whom to own it was Christopher John Hume Tower. Census records provide an interesting snapshot of his life at Weald Hall; in 1901 the family were attended by 15 live-in servants.
CJH Tower was to experience much tragedy in his life. His first wife died in childbirth and their daughter died a month later. He remarried and had two sons, Christopher Cecil and Hugh Christopher, who were both killed during World War I. Christopher was killed in action near Loos in France on October 2, 1915, and Hugh was killed while serving with the Royal Flying Corps in 1916.
Today little trace of the house remains, but visitors can spy remnants of garden buildings and the shape of the 18th century informal landscaping and meet the park’s resident herd of fallow deer.
(Originally published in Essex Life 27 February 2017)
Stick Man Play Trail
The Stick Man play trail is designed by leading natural play specialists and brings to life the bestselling Julia Donaldson picture book, Stick Man.
The trail has been designed to work with the historic parkland and its stunning views with the aim that it will inspire imaginative play.
The Stick Man play trail covers two kilometres of the park taking you past the deer enclosure, the lake and the grazing area. There are seven play areas to enjoy on the route with areas to climb, swing, crawl through and lay and enjoy watching the clouds go by. See if you can spot the Stick Man and his family built into the play areas.
The Stick Man play trail is open to everyone and is free to use during park opening hours throughout the year. A map of the trail is available to buy from the visitor centre for 50p.
Located close to the car park and visitor centre, at the beginning of the Stick Man trail, kids can enjoy a play area where they can jump, climb and slide.
Further round the trail there is another kid’s play area and den building in the woods close by.
These play areas are part of the famous Stick Man trail.
Feeding the Deer and Ducks
Food for feeding the deer and ducks can be bought from the visitor’s centre which is located by the car park, for £1 per bag. The deer also love chopped fruit (not citrus) and vegetables, but please do not feed them bread or meat.
Weald Country Park is a great place to picnic, with benches all over the park. The grassed areas around the four car parks are kept short if you want to bring chairs, a picnic rug or even a small marquee. (BBQs not allowed anywhere in the park as they are a fire hazard.)
For a spectacular view, use the Lincolns Lane car park and walk along the brow of the hill. This is also a great starting place to walk through the peaceful woodlands in the north of the park.
If you’d like the best hill for rolling down, go to the Belvedere car park. At the top of the hill (the Belvedere mound) is the remains of an 18th century folly. Known as the Belevdere temple, the large dual staircase can still be used and the flat area beneath it is perfect for a picnic.
If you’d like to get a drink, a light lunch or an ice cream, come to the Visitor Centre car park where the Stick Man trail begins. There are plenty of open and shady grassy areas nearby with picnic benches.
Our designated cycling paths are hard surfaced and circle the woodlands, meadows and lakes. The undulating countryside makes for good exercise opportunities as well as some flatter routes for an easier ride. Cycle routes are shared with horse riders.
There’s plenty of space at Weald Country Park for your dog to run around and get some good exercise. With this in mind, we have taps and dog bowls throughout the park. If you are bringing your dog you must:
- keep your dog under control or on a leash at all times;
- not allow them to chase the birds or any other wildlife;
- obey signs;
- close gates behind you;
- be aware that there are sometimes cattle grazing in The Roughs and Top Park.
With wide open spaces and woodland paths, rising and falling tracks, short and long tracks, walking at Weald County Park has something for everyone. Never crowded, the vast landscape makes the ideal place for solitude and reflection.
The bridleway network creates a circular route around the woods with some beautiful views. Please note that there may be cattle grazing at times, keep an eye out for signs. Horse riding routes are shared with cyclists.
Parking for horse riding: please use the Cricket Ground car park. This is the perfect spot to gain access to the circular bridleway. Please note there is a height barrier through to the overflow car park which is 7ft 7" / 2.3m. If you need access, please call the visitor centre on 01277 262343 and one of the rangers can check the availability prior to your arrival.
Route - The circular bridleway can be found on the park map and is signposted throughout.
Want to make a difference and support your local country park? Come and volunteer with us every Friday from 10am to 3pm. Our friendly volunteer group takes on conservation projects and park maintenance, such as fencing and creating habitats. Tasks take into account all ages, skills levels and ability so there's something for everyone and you don't have to stay for the whole session - any time you can spare is hugely appreciated. Volunteering in the park enables you to learn skills, meet new people and keep fit in beautiful surroundings, with free hot drinks and biscuits! Arrive at 9.30am to sign up and meet the team or pick up a registration form from the Visitor Centre.
There is a toilet block within walking distance of the visitor centre and each of the four car parks, including disabled and baby change facilities.
Free use of mobility scooters.
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 01277 261343 or come into the visitor centre.
Information on access to our Visitor Centre can be found on AccessAble, formerly Disabled Go.
Park hire for events
We hire areas of the park for private use and events. Please contact us for more information and prices.
Shop, Eat & Drink
Our Visitor Centre includes a shop and café. It is located close to the main car park.
The shop sells duck food and deer food for £1.00 each, Weald County Park branded gifts like jams and preserves, soft toys, and a wide range of fun and interesting toys for inside and outside such as footballs and frisbees. We also sell dog treats, toys and waste bags.
The Wigley Bush Cafe serves hot food such as delicious soups with rolls, toasted teacakes and crumpets, cream teas, sandwiches, paninis, ice creams and hot and cold drinks. Open every day, including weekends and bank holidays. Excluding Christmas Day.
01 November to the start of the Easter holiday – weekday 10am to 4pm, weekend 10am to 5pm.
Easter holiday to 31 October – weekday 10am to 4pm, weekend 9.30 to 5pm.
Open 10am to 5pm for all weekday school holidays throughout the year.
Where to find us
Featured events at Weald Country Park
Celebrate our fantastic woodlands!
- Dates: March 22, 2020
- Venue: Weald Country Park
- Times: 1:00pm - 3:00pm
- For the whole family
- Price: £6 per person