This week Team EP decided to visit Norsey Wood, which is just outside Billericay. Norsey Wood is managed by Basildon Council and is a designated Local Nature Reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and has some interesting earthworks including World War trenches and an ancient burial mound.
The woods are on relatively hilly terrain and have a network of pathways included a wheelchair (and pushchair) friendly path close to the entrance. The woods also have well kept toilets, free parking and a couple of designated picnic areas.
The wood itself is a ancient mixed coppice woodland with several excellent examples of very old coppiced trees. Due to the varied underlying geology there is a mixture of habitats. The woodland has several streams and ditches with a mixture of ancient trees and younger trees in clearings. It covers 165 acres.
Norsey’s Ancient Past
The site has an ancient history. The burial mound is thought to be around 4000 years old. The wood actually had 2 Bronze Age burial mounds in the past (also known as barrows or tumuli). however, only one remains today. This is now a protected monument.
In 1865 part of the surviving mound was excavated by Revd E. L. Cutts and Roman pottery and a bronze coin were found on the outer edges with a central area of 3 large inverted cinerary urns from the Middle Bronze Age. Recd Cutts also excavated the second barrow, which no longer survives, and discovered 7 urns. The second mound has since been built on.
A mesolithic axehead (Middle Stone Age) was also found in the woods in 1994 by a young boy walking. The stone was dated to the middle stone age, around 8000-6000 BC. Neolithic finds have also been unearthed in Norsey (around 5000 years BC). Some finds appeared when the defences trenches were dug during World War Two, such as flint skinning knives and other stone axes.
World War Trenches
Norsey is also home to a network of trenches that were dug during the First and Second World Wars. The trenches were dug by the Local Defence Volunteers and formed part of the Inner London defence line. During the second world war the woods were also used for military training. The trenches were to be manned by the home guard (Dad’s Army).
Perfect Wood for Leisure and Fitness
Norsey Wood is a lovely wood for an afternoon stroll with the family. It is also popular with cross country runners and other fitness enthusiasts who can often be seen running circuits in the woods.
The main path takes about 1 hour to walk. It is steep in places but there are many benches that have been donated in dedication those who have passed away.
It is well kept, has many interesting features and provides a challenging terrain in parts as well as wheelchair routes in others. It’s combination of ancient history, wildlife and well maintained paths make it a a near perfect wood for a spot of leisure or fitness for families and individuals.
Learn more about Norsey
- History of Norsey Wood
- Norsey Wood Nature Trail – Basildon Council website
- Basildon Council Norsey Wood nature trail (pdf)