Hadleigh has a rich history and an uncompromising community spirit. Famous for the ruins of its 13th Century Castle, as depicted by John Constable, Hadleigh was thrust onto the world stage for two days in August 2012 as the host venue for the London 2012 Olympic Games Mountain Biking event at Hadleigh Farm.
Hadleigh as a settlement has been occupied since approx. 500BC. 'Hadleigh' is a Saxon word and means 'a clearing in the heath'. Oaks from the area supplied the repairs of The Tower of London in 1272 and 1275 as most of the land in south-eastern Essex would have been woodland.
Overlooking the Thames Estuary, Hadleigh offers unrivalled opportunities for countryside recreation and wildlife watching. Hadleigh Country Park with magnificent views over the estuary extends over 387 acres and is one of the largest country parks in Essex. The park can be explored on foot, by bike or on horseback. Walkers can follow three waymarked trails from Chapel Lane car park, one of which leads to the main viewpoint which has a panorama that stretches from the mouth of the Thames to Canary Wharf. The remains of Hadleigh Castle are close by and can be reached by a short level walk.
Work is currently underway to create new trails and grassland habitats across the park, to construct new visitor facilities and to make additions to the Olympic mountain bike course ready for its opening for public use.
Another attraction well worth visiting is the Salvation Army Hadleigh Farm. It was first established as a colony in 1891 by General Booth who believed every human being should have food and shelter. He published a plan to rescue the destitute from the squalor of London. His vision was that the poor would be given board and lodgings in a City Colony in exchange for a day's work. They could then move to a Farm Colony where they would be trained to work the land and run their own smallholdings. Today the farm is a commercial farm, a place of natural beauty, committed to environmental and social progress, and home to an English Heritage site.