Information on our country parks and local nature reserves

We are lucky to have some beautiful natural places to visit in Colchester and the surrounding area. We invite visitors to come and enjoy these places. The countryside code is your guide to enjoying our parks and waterways, coast and countryside in a respectable way.

View The Countryside Code  

If you are visiting the coast, read the Marine and coastal wildlife code to help you minimise disturbance to wildlife when you visit.  

Prohibited activities    

To help protect our country parks and nature reserves the following activities are not permitted across all sites. Additional activities may be prohibited at specific sites, you can check site signage for more information.  

  • No camping 
  • No fires 
  • No BBQ’s 
  • No quad bikes or motorbikes 
  • No littering or fly tipping (including garden waste) 
  • No hunting and trapping 
  • No metal detecting 
  • No drones without permission 
  • No horse riding (except on bridle ways and permissive bridle ways) 
Find out more about keeping safe and what you can do to help stop anti-social behaviour by visting our community safety pages, or Essex Police

Dog Walking Code of Conduct 

What is the Code of Conduct? 

It is a set of guidelines, that if followed will ensure that our nature reserves and country parks stay a pleasant, safe and enjoyable place for all visitors.   

We all have a responsibility to protect our green spaces now and for future generations. Dogs are good companions, but remember that they can disturb birds, wildlife and other people enjoying the place you are visiting -  make sure you do not harm any animals, birds, plants, or trees and leave no trace of your visit.  

Our sites are popular with people for many different reasons, walkers, joggers, volunteer groups, school groups, cyclists and anglers may startle your dog or be startled by your dog. 

You must keep dogs under effective control when approaching these groups.You should put your dog on a lead if it fails to come back promptly on command or if it has a tendency to chase wildlife.  Always be aware of what your dog is doing, be confident it will return to you promptly on command and keep it in sight at all times.  

  • Make sure your dog has an ID collar on at all times  
  • Don't assume that everyone likes dogs (many people are fearful of dogs).
  • As a dog owner you have a responsibility to ensure that your pet does not cause a nuisance or danger to others, livestock, horses and wildlife.  Keep your dog on a lead around livestock including horses.
  • Keep your dog in sight as a dog out of sight may be a dog out of control.
  • Owners are required by law to clear up after their dogs in public areas, always make sure you have a suitable bag with you. You can report dog fouling
  • Respect the local community and other people enjoying the outdoors. 
  • Follow The Countryside Code of Conduct

Dogs need to be well socialised and trained from an early age, making sure they are safe and well behaved with people and other animals. Attending a training class and being consistent with training will help you raise a well-behaved dog.  If you believe your dog would benefit from training, contact your vet.   

 To keep your dog safe, the 5 basic commands they should know are:

  • sit
  • down
  • stay
  • come
  • heel 

You should always check site signage for additional site-specific information on dog walking.

Find out more about dog walking at High Woods Country Park 

Scheduled Ancient Monuments (SAM’s) 

Many areas of Colchester City are nationally important archaeological sites.  The scheduling of sites is our oldest form of heritage protection, this is where they have been selected as requiring state protection.  

Scheduled monuments are not always ancient, or visible above ground. There are over 200 categories of monuments on the schedule through Historic England. They range from prehistoric standing stones and burial mounds, through to the many types of medieval site - castles, monasteries, abandoned farmsteads and villages - to the more recent results of human activity, such as collieries.  

Find out more about the protection of monuments

Many of our countryside sites have protected areas for their Scheduled Ancient Monuments as well as their nature value.

These include:

  • High Woods CP
  • Hilly Fields
  • Lexden Park Local Nature Reserve
  • Cymbeline Meadows Local Wildlife Site 
It is a criminal offence to carry out activities that damage or destroy a scheduled ancient monument without lawful excuse. The penalty may be unlimited fines, two years imprisonment or both.

Water safety 

Many of our countryside sites have waterbodies in them. These range from ponds and lakes to rivers, streams, marshland and wetland areas.

We are lucky to have them as they add to the beauty and diversity of our sites. Water attracts wildlife and most of our water bodies are looked after with wildlife in mind. We ask that you respect this and keep disturbance of our waterways and associated wildlife to a minimum. 

Water based recreation opportunities include: 

  • angling at High Woods Country Park, Bourne Valley (Blythe Pond only) and Salary Brook
  • pond dipping children’s activity at High Woods Country Park (pop into the country park visitor centre to find out more). 
  • watching wildlife: sit quietly beside one of our watery spots and wait for the wildlife to appear. Highlights include otter, water vole, kingfisher, damselflies, frogs, toads, newts and much, much more. 

Safety rules:  

  • Respect the water, stay away from the edge and don’t go in.
  • Always keep children under close supervision near any waterbody.  
  • Take notice of any site warning or safety signs near our waterways.  
  • No swimming is permitted on any of our sites. The water quality is not tested and could contain pollution, pathogens and blue green algae, all detrimental to your health. There could be hidden hazard under the water, the depth of the water may not be obvious, there may be strong currents and entering the water can cause cold water shock, the most common cause of drowning.  
  • Do not climb on any structures next to or over the water other than walking on bridges, pond dipping platforms and fishing platforms.  
  • During times of prolonged wet weather or after very heavy down pours water levels can rise rapidly. Some pathways may become flooded, bear that in mind when planning to walk near our waterways and avoid these areas after adverse weather.  
  • Some waterbodies become covered in vegetation, pond weed or algae in the spring/summer months which may disguise the hidden water hazard, children especially may not realise the hazard is there. 
  • Thick mud can surround some waterways, notably in marshland, wetland or tidal estuaries. Getting stuck in the mud is a serious hazard, keep off these areas unless there is an official waymarked pathway through such areas. Always stick to the path. 

We recommend checking our countryside site maps before visiting a new site so you can familiarise yourself with where the waterbodies are. Site maps can be found on each site's web page. 

Find more information on staying safe around water 
Find water safety advice 

Page last reviewed: 4 April 2024