If, like me, you have never heard of this treasure of a site get your walking boots on this weekend and go into the forest. Hatfield Forest is in Essex, not Hatfield in Hertfordshire ( the name means, heathland in view of the woodland) but is an easy drive just south of Stansted airport.
Owned by the National Trust it is a unique example of a Royal Hunting Forest dating from Norman times. Oliver Rackham, that wonderful writer on the countryside, in his book about the Forest entitled The Last Forest (Dent Books 1976) argues that: “Hatfield is of supreme interest in that all the elements of a medieval Forest survive: deer, cattle, coppice woods, pollards, scrub, timber trees, grassland and fen …. As such it is almost certainly unique in England and possibly in the world …….The Forest owes very little to the last 250 years ….. Hatfield is the only place where one can step back into the Middle Ages to see, with only a small effort of the imagination, what a Forest looked like in use.”
Look out for the 18th century shell house and I’m told there’s a great cafe too.For more see:http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hatfield-forest