Features

The reserve is remarkably varied, situated partly on the sands and gravels of the Bagshot Sands and Claygate Beds, and partly on the London Clay. As a result, there is a well-developed spring-line, which is probably one of the factors making for a greater level of humidity, giving rise to a vigorous lichen flora on the trees as well as terrestrial fern cover in places. The woodland is correspondingly varied, some of it consisting of ancient primary woodland while other sections were arable land in 1840, subsequently falling via scrub and plotland to mature secondary woodland. It is management policy to recoppice the old and long-neglected primary woodland – a substantial undertaking – while also bringing much of the secondary woodland into a similar coppice regime, thereby maximising the diversity of the entire site.

It is also policy to gradually widen the network of former unmade roads in a manner that will create sunny and floristically-rich woodland rides, augmented in places with glades. The burning of felled material is kept to a strict minimum. Cordwood is stacked and sold on for fuel, while the brashings are laid into dead hedges around newly-coppiced sections, in part to recycle nutrients, in part to create habitat niches for more organisms, and in part to protect the newly-exposed woodland floor from excessive trampling.

Primroses flourish in the woodland glade in Gladstone Road. Either side of the glade the regenerating coppice woodland is protected by a dead hedge.

The reserve occupies a hilltop and hillside overlooking the Crouch Valley, and the natural drainage flows in that direction. A pond was excavated in the late 1970s on a former plotland site, located just below the springline, and was subsequently named Peck’s Pond, in honour of one of the founder Society members, Harry Peck, who had been impressively knowledgeable on pond life. Other, smaller, ponds also exist.

Pecks Pond supports a diverse range of species, from newts to water scorpions and dragonflies.

The reserve also includes some interesting meadow land, some of which is located within the wood (the Dornier Clearing, located close to where a German bomber crashed during World War II), while other sections, managed for hay but also sheep-grazed in some years, constitute the south-eastern section of the reserve.

The names of the original network of unmade roads, dating from the plotland era, have been retained for management and historical purposes (Gladstone Road, Albemarle Crescent, etc).

A map from 1887 showing how the area had been divided into affordable plots for development. Many of the residents purchased multiple plots that provided ample room for a dwelling and sizeable garden.

Many favourable comments have been made on the way in which the reserve is managed, and the Society likes to see it as an exemplar of how similar sites could be managed elsewhere. It is anticipated that the reserve will be in existence for many decades to come, constituting an important part of the Basildon and Langdon landscape – and to that end, volunteers are strongly encouraged to come forward to help maintain and develop it.