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Celebrating Our Green Spaces

Norsey Woods

In 1960s when Norsey Woods was in public ownership there was an increasing body of opinion (supported by the Essex Naturalists Trust and the Billericay Residents’ Association) that Norsey Wood should be purchased by Essex County Council as an area of regional interest, partly as a nature reserve, and partly as a public open space.
In 1966 an application to build 32 houses was staunchly opposed and then in 1976 Basildon Council compulsory purchased Norsey Woods following another Public Inquiry held on 9 April 1975.

The Council had the support of a number of organisations in the town, not least the Residents’ Associations who again were represented at the Inquiry.

Map drawn by Harry Richman shows Norsey Wood as it appeared in the 1950s. The Cater Museum
Probably the most important item of evidence produced for the Inspectors consideration on the last afternoon of the Inquiry was correspondence from the Clerk of the Essex County Council to the Secretary of the Billericay Residents’ Association dated 14 January 1966.

This showed that it was the intention of the County Council to ask the Minister of State for the Environment to amend the County Development Plan by changing Norsey Wood from Metropolitan Green Belt to Public Open Space, an extremely important factor in obtaining the favourable decision required for the compulsory purchase to go forward, thus saving the Wood from development for all time.
Mill Meadows Local Nature Reserve is about 38 hectares (90 acres) in size, and one of the finest ancient meadow systems in Essex. The site was formerly farmland, and much of it has been undisturbed by ploughing and fertilization for many years creating the ideal conditions for a wonderful diversity of wild flowers, fungi, insects and invertebrates, many of which are rare. It contains an area of about 7 hectares (17 acres) declared as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its unimproved neutral grassland. This grassland type is very much reduced within the Essex landscape, due to development and agricultural improvement.

The site is important for its species-rich wild flower meadows and its range of waxcap fungi for which it is a site of regional importance. In addition the site is well used by local bird populations and foraging bats.
Mill Meadows is grazed by a herd of Red Poll cattle. Grazing is a traditional method of grassland management that enables meadows like these to be kept low in nutrients (these being transferred into the cattle),

so that threatened and attractive wild flowers are not outcompeted by some of the more vigorous grass species.
Mill Meadows is managed by Basildon Council Parks and Countryside with the support of the Mill Meadows Society.
There are two marked trails around the reserve, starting at entrances at Chapel Street and Greens Farm. There is no car park at the site, so it is best to use the town centre car parks, as parking restrictions apply to the residential streets around Mill Meadows.