Snowdrops everywhere! 8 local lockdown walks
They're coming out! The loveliest places (that we're allowed to visit in lockdown) to (hopefully) catch winter snowdrops across Essex over the next few weeks...
Shorts and sandals at the ready, spring is here. Er, okay maybe not, but the snowdrops are! If you’ve thawed out enough to venture outside and see them, here are the best snowdrop hotspots in our ’hood that are allowing visitors this winter. If you know a secret spot, please let us know in the comments below.
Palace Walk, Danbury
Surging past the village’s grand Tudor Gothic Palace, this ancient network of canal locks meanders through Danbury Country Park and Old Hare Wood, which often sports a fringe of snowdrops at this time of year. Grab your shots for the gram, then head onto Blake’s Wood nature reserve, which might just offer up a second wave.
Whetmead Nature Reserve, Witham
Following the River Brain for four miles, this meadow-rich route is teeming with flora and fauna – and often throws up sightings of snowdrops amongst the muntjac deer, Mandarin ducks and playful otters who like to float their way downstream, belly-up. Begin your stroll at Chipping Hill Bridge, then drop down to the river trail and head south to Whetmead nature reserve for vistas of the River Blackwater.
Hanningfield Reservoir, Billericay
Part of the Essex Wildlife Trust, this working reservoir and nature reserve stretches out across 870 acres of mature woodlands and wild meadows, making it the ideal spot to get lost in for the day with your binoculars. Tread the labyrinth of foot trails through the ancient oaks and stop off at one of the myriad bird huts to watch the swallows and swifts dip between the snowdrops.
Epping Forest, Epping
Spanning more than 8,000 acres, this green oasis fringing West Essex and East London is every woodland walker’s paradise. Not been before? Try one of the nine waymarked trails on offer, all of which are circular and fully signposted. From the Gifford path – a gentle, undulating 1.25-mile jaunt through a newly-planted patch of forest – to the more challenging Oak trail (6.6 miles), there’s something for every level. Our pick? The picturesque Rowan route, which often offers up a sprinkling of snowdrops if you time it right.
Thornton Country Park, Brentwood
Thorndon Country Park and its nearby cousin Weald Country Park both offer up acres of green space for leisurely picnics and family walks come spring. However, be sure to visit in the coming weeks and you might just spot a white carpet of winter blooms, too.
Stour Valley, Dedham
Taking in Flatford Mill, Manningtree’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the ribbons of green made famous by John Constable’s 18th century paintings, this flat 1.8-mile route from Manningtree Train Station ends in the chocolate-box village of Dedham – where clouds of snowdrops have been known to cluster in previous years.
Norsey Woods, Billericay
Hit Norsey Woods for a four-mile linear trek that cuts through 67 hectares of woodland before emerging in the charming village of Stock. Come spring, this area is famed for its carpet of bluebells, but visit now and you might just spy a shroud of snowdrops instead. Either way, kids will love climbing the low-level trees and scrambling through the family-friendly wooden dens, while dogs and walkers alike can take in the sounds and scents of the forest floor.
Beth Chatto Gardens, Elmstead
For a guaranteed sighting, head to the award-winning Beth Chatto Gardens and its winter win: a carpet of delicate snowdrops from January to April. The Gardens’ director and galanthophile David Ward is hosting a guided tour of the frosted woodland area and surrounding gardens on 27 February from 11am-12 noon. Tickets cost £20 and, due to limited numbers, will be dished out on a first-come, first-served basis, so get in there quick, my green-fingered friends.