Oxlip Woods


All the woods in Saffron Walden's living landscape were originally ancient oxlip woods. Many have been coniferised and have lost or are losing their oxlips. Only four are protected as nature reserves or equivalent. Two of these are sites of special scientific interest as is one non-reserve wood.

Twelve woods are recognised at Local Wildlife Sites and several of the remaining woods probably merit this status.

Nature reserve woods

Hales Wood National Nature Reserve.

Only part of Hales Wood is designated as an NNR by Natural England: the first that was created anywhere in Essex. It was designated as a good example of an ancient woodland with oxlips. It is privately owned and not open to the public. See Natural England's Hales Wood document.

Shadwell Wood

Donated to the Essex Wildlife Trust, it is close to Hales Wood, also a good oxlip wood and the two woods together are designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for that reason. It is open freely to the public at all times although it i not signed from the road and it is not clear whether the car-park area may be used by visitors. See EWT web page.

Noakes Grove

An 8.6 acre site including a 1 acre block of ancient bluebell/oxlip wood, an area of scrub is designated a local wildlife site (LoWS) but not the wood. The reserve is owned by Organic Countryside CIC and is open to the public at all times. See Organic Countryside interactive map.

Little Hales Wood

A 19 ha Forestry Commission woodland: originally coniferised it has now mosty been deconiferised and has a rich flora and fauna. It is designated access land and is open at all times by way of a track from the Ashdon Road which is not signed and is not a public right of way.It is designated a local wildlife site: see Ufd175

Sites of Special Scientific Interest

These are designated by Natural England who have some control over how they must be managed by their owners.

Hales & Shadwell Woods nature reserves are SSSI status

See Natural England citation

Nunn Wood is a private SSSI

A 9.7 ha oak/hornbeam woodland at Bowsers End. It is traversed by a public footpath (at present blocked). Once part of a larger SSI comprising a group of Essex woodlands. The other woods have had their SSSI status revoked but Nunn Wood is judged to be in favourable condition.

See Natural England site detail website and their SSSI citation document

Local Wildlife Sites

These are designated by Wildlife Trusts following detailed habitat surveys. See the national Wildlife Trusts short guide to local wildlife sites.

Our sites were designated by the Essex Wildlife Trust

Those with a "UDC details" link have a description of the wood and details of its mangement (actual and desirable). The "Ufd" links (available for all woods) link to the Essex Wildlife Trust webpage with little more than a map and very brief details.

Site & UDC details link

Size (Ha)


Code & EWT web link

Little Grimsditch Wood


Saffron Walden


Pounce Wood


Sewards End


Whitehill Wood (inc. Elms Plantation)


Saffron Walden

Ufd 139

Madge Hobbs Wood


Saffron Walden


Moll Pond Wood


Sewards End


Martins Wood


Sewards End


Robins Grove/Hills Wood


Sewards End


Brights Wood






Sewards End


Hales Wood South




Shadwell Wood West




Little Hales Wood 19.0 Ashdon Ufd175
Grimsditch Wood 13.9 Saffron Walden Ufd119

Other Woods

These woods are not designated as Local Wildlife Sites but most appear to merit designation and need to be surveyed.

Site & UDC details link

Size (Ha)


Code & EWT web link

Ten Acre Wood
Saffron Walden  
The Slipes
Noakes Grove
Sewards End  

What needs doing?

Who could do it?
Likely cost
The first problem is not that most of the woods privately owned but who owns them appears to be a secret. Unless the owners can be contacted there is no chance of a dialog to explore possible management changes that would benefit the owners as well of the conservation value of the woods. Identify owners of woods Local people, farm workers etc to . If that fails, pay the Land Registry for the information. nil £10 per site if Land Registry used

The ideal form of management for most of the woods would be to re-instate a coppicing cycle producing logs and charcoal that can be sold locally.

This cannot easily be achieved by the owner of a single wood but a co-operative venture managing a group of woods, with trained staff and proper equipment, is much more likely to work.

The dominant existing use of these woods is pheasant rearing: this would benefit from the woods becoming more open with a denser ground flora.

Discussions with each owner separately, to explore level of interest in such a co-operative venture. If level of interest sufficient, hold a meeting to get establish a group of owners willing to work co-operatively on the project. Organic Countryside £2000+ Requires involvenment of expert advisors in early discussions with land owners
Substantial DEFRA and other grants are available to support collective management schemes by groups of landowners and farmers. Other grants support the establishment of rural enterprises like a wood-fuel production company.

Research available grant sources and produce a costed business plan


Organic Countryside £5000 Expert aid needed researching grants and business plan