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5 Stunning National Trust Locations To Visit In Essex

By Katie Byrne – 21st December 2020

In the mood for getting outdoors this winter?

Whether it’s to blow away the cobwebs after Christmas or simply to make the most of the gorgeous countryside that Essex has in bucketloads, the scenic properties of the National Trust could be the perfect place to head to.

National Trust properties and locations around Essex include:

  • Copt Hall Marshes
  • Hatfield Forest
  • Paycocke’s House and Gardens – currently closed
  • Bourne Mill – currently closed (though spot it looking beautiful in the snow last winter via the image carousel below!)
  • Flatford
  • Rayleigh Mount
  • Grange Barn – currently closed
  • Danbury Commons and Blakes Wood
  • Northey Island – currently closed

And, of course, there are plenty of others to visit in neighbouring Suffolk if you want to go a little further afield for your NT fix.

Whilst some are currently closed due to COVID-19, many of the outdoor spaces in the National Trust’s stable of properties are still ready and waiting for you to visit, with safety measures in place to ensure social distancing is possible even when you’re soaking up the great outdoors.

So where’s best to head this winter?

Hatfield Forest, Bishop’s Stortford

Booking in advance essential.

Hatfield Forest is, in the words of the National Trust, the ‘best surviving example in Britain of an almost complete Royal Hunting Forest’. Naturally, with a royal pedigree so impressive, this stunning stretch of woodland has seen a thing or two in its time – and with trees that are over 1,000 years old, we bet it has some stories to tell…

Home to a vast array of wildlife – upwards of 3,500 species, to be precise – it’s a must-visit. Whether you love history, nature or simply want your kids to burn off the E numbers from their selection boxes, Hatfield means something uniquely special to every single visitor.

Find out more: nationaltrust.org.uk/hatfield-forest

Copt Hall Marshes, Little Wigborough

Wild and breathtaking in its beauty, Copt Hall is a working farm that overlooks the Blackwater Estuary. (And is very nearby to where Sarah Perry’s best-selling The Essex Serpent was set.)

As well as offering brooding views and lungfuls of salty sea air, it’s also an important breeding ground for birds, including kestrels and owls, among others. The work of the National Trust at the site covers everything from crop production to ensuring wildlife has everything it needs to flourish.

Oh – and if you’re really lucky, you might even spot an adder during your visit – how’s that for a real-life Essex Serpent experience all of your own?

Find out more: nationaltrust.org.uk/copt-hall-marshes

Rayleigh Mount, Rayleigh

Once home to an impressive Medieval castle (and the only Essex castle mentioned in the Domesday Book, no less), Rayleigh Mount is now a thriving hub for nature. Whilst the bulk of the castle now exists in the history books alone, you can still soak up the atmosphere on the Mount, whilst enjoying the sheer beauty of the location.

Want to learn more about the history of Rayleigh Mount? Head back anytime between April and September and book yourself on to a guided tour (restrictions permitting).

Find out more: nationaltrust.org.uk/rayleigh-mount

Flatford, East Bergholt

Straddling the Essex-Suffolk border is pretty Flatford, nestled in the heart of the picturesque Dedham Valley. And you might even recognise it before you visit – after all, Flatford inspired some of John Constable’s most famous landscape paintings.

For a bit of structure to your visit, try and plan a route in advance. The National Trust actually has a four-to-seven mile recommended walking route available here, that handily starts and finishes at nearby Manningtree Station.

If the thought of a bracing winter walk doesn’t appeal to little ones, take a look at the Family Fun Activity Packs; alternatively, ask for a copy of 50 Things To Do Before You’re 11 3/4 at the car park reception for some family-friendly fun, including pooh sticks, cloud watching and fish spotting.

Need a break after all that walking or pooh stick throwing? Head to the Flatford Team Room for a cuppa and a slice of something delicious – make sure you bring your phone or bank card, as the staff are currently unable to accept cash.

Dogs are welcome but must be kept on the lead due to grazing livestock. Parking is available but space is limited.

Find out more: nationaltrust.org.uk/flatford

Danbury Commons & Blakes Wood, Danbury

This stunning woodland setting might feel as if it’s tumbled out of a fairytale but is very much a real-life place you can visit today.

Comprising a jaw-dropping 214 acres (making it Essex’s second-largest area of common land, FYI), Danbury Commons is the perfect place to head for a relaxing roam, where you can be truly at one with nature. Rich in heritage, the Commons once played host to the grazing animals that belonged to the Lord of the Manor’s subjects, whilst its elevated position (it sits on one of Essex’s highest hills) also means its played its part in military history, too.

Blakes Wood, meanwhile, is a riot of romantic woodland: think trickling streams, sprawling oaks and a rainbow of blooms that burst into life in the springtime.

In short, head to Danbury for a bracing family stroll and – when COVID restrictions allow – consider booking yourself in for a delicious lunch at the nearby Cricketers Arms. Alternatively, pack a picnic and prepare for an al fresco dining experience beneath the trees!

Find out more: nationaltrust.org.uk/danbury-commons-and-blakes-wood

All images obtained via the National Trust – Essex Facebook page. Find out more about the National Trust’s Essex properties here.

Wherever you head this winter – enjoy!

Katie x


This is a Girl About recommendation. This means that it was not gifted in return for a review but paid in full by our writer and the venue had no idea that I was there. We only recommend places we absolutely love, and places that we know you’ll love too!

Katie Byrne Essex
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