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Many people will associate Hylands Park with events such as the annual V-Festival, but in fact it is an historic park offering a great deal for anyone interested in wildlife. Landscaped parkland, designed by Humphry Repton in the 18th century, surrounds Hylands House and its formal garden. Later the estate was extended from its original 213 acres to nearly 600 today.
As you would expect of a long-established wood-pasture, it has some fine ancient trees, and also some patches of ancient woodland. The largest of these, South Wood, is former coppice rich in flowers, including large numbers of early purple orchids.
Add to this some flower-rich grassland, a number of ponds – with a thriving population of great crested newts – and a stretch of the River Wid. A herd of fallow deer graze within the park but are not enclosed within it.
Access from the A414 about a mile west of the St Mary's Church roundabout, at the southern end of Chelmsford's inner ring road. SatNav: CM2 8FS.
Buses from Brentwood to Chelmsford pass the park: from Chelmsford nearest bus stop is next to the St Mary's Church roundabout; from Brentwood on London Road directly outside the entrance gates. There is a signed cycle route from Writtle village.
Entrance gates open at 7.30am and close at dusk. Hylands House and tearoom open Sunday and Monday throughout the year. Sometimes access may be restricted because of events: call Chelmsford Council on 01245 605500 for this or other information.
Worth a visit at any time of the year, but especially late April to May for early purple orchids in South Wood.