Belfairs Nature Discovery Centre
Know before you go
Parking informationLimited and disabled parking available
Bicycle parkingBike parking available
Disabled parking available, various routes around the reserve. Contact the centre for further details.
When to visit
Opening timesBelfairs Nature Discovery Centre is open 7 days a week from 10.00am-5.00pm.
Best time to visitAll year round
About the reserve
Belfairs Nature Discovery Centre is a visitor, community and education centre. It is an important gateway to the Belfairs & Daws Heath Living Landscape, in south Essex, where Essex Wildlife Trust and Southend-on-Sea Borough Council are working, together with many partners and local people, on conservation and education activities, to preserve this fantastic landscape for future generations. The striking, wooden-clad building has been constructed sympathetically to its environment. Inside, there are an education hall (also available to hire as a meeting hall), shop, information displays and refreshments area.
Belfairs Woodland Centre introduces visitors to the 1160-acre Living Landscape, a third of which is woodland, including a number of outstanding sites valuable for nature conservation. It is a crucial green lung surrounded by urban areas and provides a tremendous green space of great importance to local people of the Boroughs of Southend and Castle Point.
Much of the woodland is officially ‘ancient woodland’; some is more than 1,000 years old, making it the earliest woodland recorded in Essex. The woodlands are home to a number of historic landscape features and a wide variety of flora and fauna, including several nationally-threatened species.
The dormouse, heath fritillary butterfly and song thrush are key species here, as is the unusual Wild Service tree, an important indicator of ancient woodland. The woods are enjoyed by local residents and visitors for walking, cycling, horse riding, golf and bowls. Most of the woods survive from an age when woodland was a vital economic resource. Coppicing and woodland rotation helped long-term sustainability, creating a patchwork of trees of different age, height, density and species – incidentally supporting a far greater diversity of plant and animal species.
Essex Wildlife Trust and other partners within the Living Landscape have resumed these traditional woodland management techniques, which will help the return and spread of declining species.
We serve a selection of hot items, sandwiches, wraps, paninis, toasties, children’s lunch boxes, homemade soups and vegan chilli, delicious handmade cakes; including gluten & dairy free, cream teas, toasted teacakes and seasonal homemade bakes.
Open daily, serving from 9.00am – 5.00pm (4.00pm during winter) with hot food served until 30 minutes before closing.
The Visitor Centre has a well-stocked shop including binoculars, wildlife books, bird food and feeders, gifts, greetings cards, toys and games, local honey and jams, packaged snacks and ice creams.