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Essex wildlife walk: The Blue House Farm Trail circular

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Tucked away in the Essex countryside lies the wild paradise of Blue House Farm Nature Reserve overlooking the River Crouch. Expertly managed by Essex Wildlife Trust, this 287-hectare site is one of the county’s most important strongholds for nature, and a fantastic place to experience the cycling wheel of the year first-hand.

Starting in the small car park [diver.sulk.quail], follow the permissive mown path around the farm, spending time in each of the three bird hides, and link up with the seawall public footpath which circles back around to create a circular route. It is a working farm, and most of the land was originally saltmarsh until sea walls were constructed to capture the land from the sea. It was then used as grazing pasture, a practise which continues today, although some of the higher fields are used for crops.

In the winter, listen to the large shuffling flocks of up to 2,000 dark-bellied brent geese which travel all the way from Siberia to graze on the marshes. High numbers of other wildfowl and wading bird species join them, including golden plover, dunlin, wigeon and teal.

When spring comes in, listen closely for the ‘plop’ of a water vole as they tumble in and out of the ditches. To the excitement of the rangers, the elusive russet-brown bearded tit can also be heard amongst the reed-beds – a repeated short sharp descending “seeoo” sound – as they feed on a mixed diet of invertebrates and reed seeds. These noises join in chorus with the scratchy sounding reed warbler, whilst lapwing perform tumbling flight displays overhead as if they are practising for the local airshow.

A summer ramble will treat you to up-close-and-personal views of dragonflies, patrolling the ditches, and butterflies bursting with colour as they flit paper-light through the grass and along the hedgerows. In autumn, many migratory birds will again pass through the reserve and, in the late afternoon, keep a beady eye out for short-eared owls gracefully hunting along the ditches. One this is for sure…they will be keeping a careful eye on you.

Great British Life: Blue House Farm Nature Reserve Credit: Creative Commons, Visit Essex Blue House Farm Nature Reserve Credit: Creative Commons, Visit Essex

Truly, with its diversity of carefully managed and unspoiled habitats, Blue House Farm is one of the best places in Essex to experience nature up close. Whether you visit to enjoy a quiet walk, an evening of stargazing or a day spent birdwatching (don’t forget your binoculars!), you’ll find your own slice of wilderness here along the farm’s winding trails.

Before you head home, what better way to finish the day than at the Ferry Boat Inn [girder.merit.aboard], a family-run pub just across the road in North Fambridge. It has a cosy timbered interior and a hearty English pub menu of homemade dishes. Savour a pint of local ale in the garden and watch the world float by. Now, time to get those walking boots on!

 

For the safety of the wildlife and farm animals, dogs are not allowed on the permissive footpaths throughout the Blue House Farm reserve. However, they are allowed on the sea wall and, most importantly, in the designated dog friendly areas of the Ferry Boat Inn.

COMPASS POINTS

The Blue House Farm Trail

Distance: 3 miles

Time taken: 2 hours



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