Site of Special Scientific Interest Citation
County: Essex Site Name: Hatfield Forest
Status: Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) notified under Section 28 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
Local Planning Authority: Uttlesford District Council
National Grid Reference: TL 538202 Area: 403.2 (ha) 996.3 (acres)
Ordnance Survey Sheet 1: 50 000: 167 1: 10 000: TL 51 NW, TL 52 SW
Date Notified (Under 1949 Act): 1956 Date of Last Revision: 1974
Date Notified (Under 1981 Act): 1985 Date of Last Revision: -
Hatfield Forest and Wall Wood are owned by the National Trust. The area of marsh adjacent to the lake is a nature reserve managed jointly with the Essex Naturalists' Trust.
[Note: this latter statement is no longer the case. ENT/EWT are not involved]
Reasons for Notification:
Hatfield Forest is unique in being the last small medieval Royal Forest to remain virtually intact in character and composition. The Forest, together with the purlieu woods: Wall Wood, Monk's Wood and Wallis's Spring, was originally an outlying part of the extensive Forest of Essex and still covers over 400 hectares of mixed ancient coppice woodland, scrub, unimproved grassland chases and plains with ancient pollards, and herb-rich marshland bordering a large lake. The woodland is predominantly wet ash-maple and the ash-maple variant of oak-hornbeam. There is a small area of plateau alder, a restricted habitat within Essex and also the only example in the county of calcareous mixed oak coppice, with it's unusually large oak stools. More than four hundred species of higher plants have been recorded, including about thirty trees and shrubs, and many county rarities with Stinking Hellebore Helleborus foetidus and Oxlip Primula elatior of national importance. It is comparatively rich in bryophytes and lichens and has locally important breeding bird communities and insect populations.
Over fifteen different woodland stand-types have been recognised within the coppices. They are mainly mixed with standards of Ash Fraxinus excelsior, Oak Quercus robur and Hornbeam Carpinus betulus - the latter forming more pure stands in Monk's Wood and Wallis's Spring. Aspen Populus tremula and Birch Betula spp. occur in varying quantity, especially where Elm Ulmus spp. has declined through Dutch Elm disease. The shrub layer is similarly variable with Hazel Corylus avellana and Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna, with some Blackthorn Prunus spinosa. Holly Ilex aquifolium is conspicuous by its unexplained absence. The Forest is particularly noted for its ancient '"thorn", often covered with Mistletoe Viscum album, which is also found growing on Black Poplar Populus nigra, Ash and Maple Acer campestre. The ground flora is dominated by Dog's Mercury Mercurialis perennis and Bramble Rubus spp. And in the wetter areas by Tufted Hair-grass Deschampsia cespitosa. Wall and Monk's Woods are well known for their Primroses Primula vulgaris, while Oxlips P. elatior are found in Dowsett's and Parsley's (Street) coppices as well as in Wall Wood which is close to their southern limit in Britain. Herb Paris Paris quadrifolia is found over larger areas of Round and Long Coppice. Other noteworthy species include Early Purple Orchid Orchis mascula, Greater Butterfly Orchid Platanthera chlorantha, Bird's-nest Orchid Neottia nidus-avis, Common Twayblade Listera ovata, Wild Daffodil Narcissus pseudonarcissus, Common Gromwell Lithospermum officinale and Stinking Iris Iris foetidissimal.
Centuries -old pollarded trees are scattered across the grassland plains of the eastern half of the Forest. They include Hornbeam, Oak and probably the only native Beech Fagus sylvatica in Essex outside Epping Forest and South Weald Park. The grasslands of the ancient wood pasture are both varied and herb-rich. Notable species include Bee Orchid Orphrys apifera, Pyramidal Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis, Common Spotted Orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii, Strawberry Clover Trifolium fragiferum, Wild Thyme Thymus praecox, Dwarf Thistle Cirsium acaule and Adder's Tongue Ophioglossum vulgatum. Typical plants of a more sandy area include Sheep's Fescue Festuca ovina, Heath-grass Danthonia decumbens, Spring Sedge Carex caryophyllea, Upright Chickweed Moenchia erecta, Small-flowered Buttercup Ranunculus parviflorus and Harebell Campanula rotundifolia.
The rich fen area at the northern end of the Lake, fed by Shermores Brook, is one of the largest known island marshes in the county. It contains numerous plants which are rare elsewhere in Essex, such as Early Marsh and Southern Marsh Orchids Dactylorhiza incarnata and D. praetermissa, Broad Blysmus Blysmus compressus, Marsh Pennywort Hydrocotyle vulgaris, Bog Pimpernel Anagallis tenella, Marsh Arrow-grass Triglochin palustris, Tubular Water Dropwort Oenanthe fistulosa, Ragged Robin Lychnis flos-cuculi and Marsh Valerian Valeriana dioica as well as at least six species of sedge Carex spp. The Lake itself provides an additional habitat for both resident and migrant wildfowl and contains Pike, Tench, Roach, Rudd and Perch.
Grasshopper Warbler, Snipe, Water Rail and Nightingale are amongst the more than sixty species of birds breeding in the Forest. There are also a number of Badger setts within the woodland.
3.1.2 Operations likely to damage the special interest
Site name: Hatfield Forest, North Essex OLD1003932
Ref. No. Type of Operation
1 Cultivation, including ploughing, rotovating, harrowing, and re-seeding.
2 Grazing and changes in the grazing regime (including type of stock or intensity or seasonal pattern of grazing and cessation of grazing).
3 Stock feeding and changes in stock feeding practice, including changes in the number of animals stocked.
4 Mowing or other methods of cutting vegetation and changes in the mowing or cutting regime (including hay making to silage and cessation).
5 Application of manure, fertilisers and lime.
6 Application of pesticides, including herbicides (weedkillers).
7 Dumping, spreading or discharge of any materials.
9 The release into the site of any wild, feral or domestic animal*, plant or seed.
10 The killing or removal of any wild animal*, including pest control.
11 The destruction, displacement, removal or cutting of any plant or plant remains, including tree, shrub, herb, hedge, dead or decaying wood, moss, lichen, fungus, leaf-mould or turf.
12 Tree and/or woodland management+ and changes in tree and/or woodland management+.
13a Drainage, including the use of mole, tile, tunnel or other artificial drains.
13b Modification of the structure of watercourses (eg streams, springs, ditches or drains), including their banks and beds, as by re-alignment, re-grading and dredging.
13c Management of aquatic and bank vegetation for drainage purposes (see also 11).
14 The changing of water levels and tables and water utilisation (including irrigation, storage and abstraction from existing water bodies and through boreholes).
15 Infilling of ditches, drains, ponds, pools, marshes or pits.
16a Freshwater fishery production and/or management (where already damaging) and changes in freshwater fishery production and/or management, including sporting fishing and angling.
20 Extraction of minerals, including peat, sand and gravel, topsoil, subsoil, chalk and spoil.
21 Construction, removal or destruction of roads, tracks, walls, fences, hardstands, banks, ditches or other earthworks, or the laying, maintenance or removal of pipelines and cables, above or below ground.
22 Storage of materials.
23 Erection of permanent or temporary structures, or the undertaking of engineering
works, including drilling.
26 Use of vehicles or craft likely to damage or disturb the flora and fauna.
27 Recreational or other activities likely to damage or disturb the flora and fauna.
28 Game and waterfowl management and hunting practice and changes in game and
waterfowl management and hunting practice.
* ‘animal’ includes any mammal, reptile, amphibian, bird, fish or invertebrate.
+ including afforestation, planting, clear and selective felling, thinning, coppicing, modification of the stand or underwood, changes in species composition, cessation of management.