Hadleigh Country Park
Grid ref: TQ 800 869 (click for o/s map)
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This country park is hillside running down, steeply in places, to grazing marsh, seawall and a narrow strip of saltmarsh alongside Benfleet Creek.
The hillside has a mosaic of grassland, scrub and light woodland. The hay meadows and rides are full of wild flowers such as rest-harrow, birdsfoot trefoil and self-heal, and also support some unusual plants, including deptford pink, bithynian vetch and wild catmint.
On sunny summer days butterflies such as comma, speckled wood and skippers flutter along the rides, and adders slither out to sun themselves. Benfleet Downs is particularly rich in insects, including a national rarity, the shrill carder bee, and there's a good chance of seeing green hairstreak, white-letter hairstreak or wall brown butterflies.
Cattle graze the marshland behind the seawall. In summer meadow pipits and skylarks nest here and it is alive with insects, including scarce emerald damselflies. Little grebes and reed warblers breed along the dykes and ponds.
The main entrance is via Chapel Lane, which leaves the A13 by the Morrison's supermarket in Hadleigh. It can also be reached from the footpath running along the seawall between Benfleet and Leigh. SatNav: SS7 2PP.
Benfleet station (Fenchurch St– Southend line) is a short walk from the western arm of the park. A number of bus services run along the A13 through Hadleigh and to Benfleet station.
Open from 8 am until dusk all year round.
Mid-summer for wild flowers, butterflies and other insects; winter (for the hardy) for birds, ideally at high tide when they are closest.
Call the Rangers on 01702 551072 for more information.