Roding Valley Meadows
165ac/67ha SSSI (part), LNR
Grid ref: TQ 430 943 (click for o/s map)
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This Essex Wildlife Trust nature reserve comprises the largest surviving area of traditionally managed river-valley habitat in Essex. It consists of flower-rich unimproved hay meadows, both wet and dry, bounded by thick hedgerows, together with a small amount of scrub, secondary woodland and tree plantation. It follows the River Roding for some 1.5 miles between Chigwell Lane and Roding Lane, Buckhurst Hill, as it meanders across this ancient landscape.
The meadows are rich in flowers, including pepper saxifrage, southern marsh orchid, ragged robin, marsh marigold and devilsbit scabious. The impressive green lane that runs from near the river to the M11 motorway by Grange Farm forms part of the old route from Epping Forest to Romford market, and has many woodland flowers.
In spring and summer, sedge warbler, reed bunting and common whitethroat can be found about the river and meadows. Late summer sees flocks of finches and other seed-eating birds on the seed heads of thistle and teasel. Grey heron, little grebe and snipe are regular winter visitors.
Many insects inhabit the meadows and hedgerows, both unusual and common. Most summers produce drifts of meadow brown butterflies with their lazy, dipping flight.
The meadows are managed in the traditional way by taking a hay cut in summer, followed by cattle grazing. A total length of almost ten miles of hedgerow is managed by laying and coppicing.
Accessible from the Roding Valley recreation ground via a number of entrances on the Loughton side of the river. The car park is next to the David Lloyd Tennis Centre off Roding Lane.
Buckhurst Hill, Loughton and Debden tube stations on the Central Line are all within a few minutes' walk of the reserve. Additionally, many bus services run to Debden and Loughton stations.
Accessible at all times.
For meadow flowers, any time from late spring up to the mid-July hay cut.
One-mile linear surfaced track for wheelchairs; all kissing gates adapted to accommodate wheelchairs and scooters.
Please keep dogs on leads when there is livestock on the reserve.
Leaflets from the warden (020 8508 1593), Epping Forest DC (01992 564222) and Essex Wildlife Trust visitor centres. For help call the warden on 020 8508 1593.