Thorndon Country Park
Thorndon Country Park
4.5
Nature & Wildlife Areas
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9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Monday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Tuesday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Wednesday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Thursday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Friday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Saturday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Sunday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
About
This beautiful country park contains a diverse range of habitats and is managed both for people and for its precious wildlife. There are some fantastic walks through ancient woodland and historic deer parks which lie close alongside recently planted woodland and a landscape of small pastures. Thorndon Countryside Centre is managed by Essex Wildlife Trust and the Park is managed by Essex County Council in a joint venture. Gruffalo Trail Come and see the original Gruffalo Trail - a self-led trail around the woods, searching for carvings of the Gruffalo characters. Gruffalo Activity Maps are available from the Countryside Centre, at a cost of 50p. The countryside centre offers some unique gifts and books, a separate education room, refreshments and displays. There are regular activities for children, schools and families. Few areas offer such variety as Thorndon country park and its surroundings. Ancient woodland and historic deer parks lie close alongside recently planted woodland and a landscape of small pastures, while nearby is the high forest of Hartswood and former common land. Thorndon Country Park is in two parts, the northern section on a gravel ridge and the southern part on clay soil lower down. The two parts are now linked by Old Thorndon Pastures, which is farmland that has been restored to a traditional farming landscape with small hedged fields, grazed by cattle. Thorndon Country Park North In spring, the woodlands of Thorndon North are filled with the scent and colour of bluebells, anemones and other woodland flowers. The woods are rich in birdlife and attract many species of migrant and over-wintering birds including bramblings, siskins and redpolls. Childerditch Pond is both beautiful and tranquil. Please note: Thorndon Country Park North car park is the best way to access the Gruffalo Trail. Thorndon Country Park South The open parkland at Thorndon South is busy with families enjoying barbecues and picnics, whilst drinking in views reaching out across countryside and into the heart of Canary Wharf. It's a great place to fly a kite. Thorndon Country Park offers a variety of habitats including ancient woodland, parkland, ponds, a marsh and meadow. There are some stunning ancient trees including Giant Oak and Hornbeam pollards, that are reminders that this was once a deer park. Parts of it used to be heathland, now a scarce habitat in Essex, and to restore it parts of the park, both north and south, are being grazed by goats and sheep. The park attracts a large number of woodland birds and sees more than its fair share of passage migrants and winter visitors. For example, large flocks of Siskins and Redpolls often gather in the birches, and bramblings can be seen near to the centre feeding on beech mast. There are many butterflies to be enjoyed including the uncommon Purple and White-letter Hairstreaks. The park is managed by Essex County Council's Ranger Service who are returning Conifer plantations to grassland or woodland as mature trees are harvested. The Countryside Centre in Thorndon Park North was built just after the 1987 hurricane and fallen timber from a number of Essex Wildlife Trust nature reserves was used in its construction. It is the Trust's most popular centre with over 100,000 visitors per year, and provides refreshments, a gift shop, displays and interpretation.
Suggested duration
2-3 hours
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Detailed Reviews: Reviews order informed by descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as cleanliness, atmosphere, general tips and location information.
Popular mentions

4.5
432 reviews
Excellent
233
Very good
129
Average
46
Poor
13
Terrible
11

Phil S
London, UK17 contributions
Mar 2023
Have visited Thorndon Country Park before and have left two reviews which were less than glowing thanks to their bizarre rule of no dogs in the cafe area (in the middle of a forest!). Was delighted this time therefore to find that dogs are now allowed in the shop and cafe and that the staff were very polite and welcoming. Brought my 2 year old grand daughter for the Gruffalo trail which was very well laid out although she was just as happy running all over the forest kicking up leaves! Had an undercover part for packed lunches had it been raining and toilet facilities were close by and reasonable state. Enjoyable visit for all the family
Written March 3, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

John A
Brentwood, UK355 contributions
May 2021
A haven during lockdown as a place to have exercise in lovely surroundings even when the weather was poor.
The rangers did a great job keeping the main paths passable in the poor weather although you did need walking boots for many areas.
Now it is returning to normal and it is still great to visit for daily exercise - you can have a short circuit or a longer walk and one often finds new paths to explore.
If you like walking in the woods then it is perfect (and of course they are changing with the seasons) but if you prefer more open spaces then there are plenty at Thorndon South and on the way there from North.
Written May 31, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Zapstar67
London, UK1,541 contributions
Oct 2020 • Family
Much bigger than you realise, two car parks and also by the road. There is the obvious Gruffalo trail for the youngsters but plenty more if you’re a bit more adventurous. There is also a mountain bike centre during the summer. The car park is a bit expensive and there could be better signage to get you to explore further afield. Nice cafe and shop
Written October 26, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

brian t
Southend-on-Sea, UK528 contributions
Apr 2023 • Friends
thorndon park is a very large area of woodland to explore differing times of the year. We arrived as a group to hopefully see the wild bluebells which are normally at this time of the year in full bloom, (end of april). However after a two hour trek what few areas there were, were very poorly represented due to the cold and the areas were being taken over by wild brambles. There are some 500 acres to explore! and the woods do have a historic link to the past. Most of the trees are not all the old due to felling for commercial reasons. The big reason for families with children is to explore THE GRUFFALO TRAIL ! With many school parties taking part.. the South entrance has NO facilities so park in the NORTH entrance which is organised with cafe and toilets. Car park is £5 for four hours.
Written April 27, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

zardoz
Chelmsford, UK74 contributions
Jun 2020 • Family
It's a great park for a walk or picnic but as a fishing experience the lake needs proper management. It's not as if it's free to fish there. The banks are sloping on the east side and there's little room between the path and waters edge in some places. They need to build some proper fishing platforms on the sloping areas and manage the bankside trees to provide better fishing access.
The lake is a long walk from the car park so if you are loaded down with tackle it's a mission although I concede there's not much they can do there.
I also don't see why you need to pay 5.50 to park as well as 6 quid to fish.
For less I can fish on a private fishing lake with the car park a sensible distance, proper fishing areas and toilets nearby.
As I say a good park for a family day out but as a fishing venue..not good.
Written June 28, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Neil E
Romford, UK80 contributions
Oct 2020 • Family
Visited the South part of the country park. This is a lovely place to visit and there is dog agility course. However the parking charges are terribly high (we should be encouraging people to access nature and walks not penalise them) plus the park cafe was closed.
Written October 18, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Climber22467419955
1 contribution
Mar 2023 • Couples
Dogs no longer allowed in the cafe. Essex Wildlife Trust have now taken the decision to ban dogs from all of their cafes. I have written to their Head Office and received a totally unsatisfactory generic reply. We used to enjoy visiting the cafe with our dogs and meeting our friends with their well behaved dogs. I and many of our friends are extremely annoyed with this decision. This is a country park cafe where people walk their dogs. This decision is extremely short sighted and will lead to a loss of revenue to EWT which will be very notable come the winter.
Written May 12, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

nachama o
2 contributions
Apr 2021 • Family
Gruffalo Trail a big let down.
We drove all the way for the kids to enjoy the gruffalo trail, but it literally is a open space with 5 statues randomley placed. Poorley Signposted, there is no challenge and the trail itself wasn't particularly fun for my 3 and 5 year old. They kept asking me wheres the park??? Why aren't the statues real? I wana see a real graffalo. I can't a expect a real grafalo but unfortunately there wasnt even a park. I was very surprised a piece of greenery that big cant invest in a small childrens playing area, after all the grafalo area was created to entice children. Was a big let down.

The park itself was beautiful and I personally enjoyed walking around, the fresh air and taking a picnic. The onsite toilets were decent and parking was the only thing we needed to pay for. The walk was very Buggy accessible but we would have no reason to come back.
Written April 15, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Karen Storer
3 contributions
Aug 2020
Lovely country park but feel that excessive car park fees will definitely deter us from coming as frequently as we would like. No concessions for pensioners. Also as a fully paid up member of Essex Wildlife trust it would be nice to be given some concession as I believe the park is partly owned by the trust.
Written August 14, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Celidwen1
Derbyshire, UK211 contributions
Aug 2021 • Couples
This really is a beautiful country park, with a fabulous array of wildlife. There are plenty of trails and there's something for everyone - a café, biking trails, walking trails, a deer park, grazing livestock, bird hides and lakes/ponds.

However, good luck if you have never been here before. This park is HUGE and if you don't know your way around, you're going to really struggle. There's a map when you arrive, which is about as much use as a chocolate fireguard. This place is so big with so many paths that you will have no clue where you are within minutes.

The problems start from the moment you arrive, as there is no signage to tell you how to find the start of any of the trails. Every now and then there might be a vague sign along the way, but parts of where the signs were pointing were areas that were closed. The deer park was also closed. There were two maps that we saw, one of which omitted information that was on the other, which meant we couldn't work out whether we were going the right way or not.

The only reason we managed to get around at all was firstly that we have OS Maps on our phones, and secondly that it was quite busy so we bumped into a few people who thankfully were able to help us out. I really can't understand the lack of signage because there are trees and fence lines everywhere - is it really too much to expect a small sign here and there?

There were so many areas we didn't explore because there were gates but no clue as to where they led, and OS Maps don't help with the internal layout of country parks.

It was great that there were benches dotted around so you could sit down and have a breather when you needed to.

If it helps, there are in fact apparently toilets at the South end of the park, so if you manage the long walk round (about six miles) you can use the loo at the start in the North car park and there's another at the other end (not signposted).

Sadly there was no hand soap in any of the toilets (pretty vile) so you need to bring some with you. You really should be able to wash your hands properly - not much point having social distancing if you can't have clean hands!

The café offerings seemed rather basic so we gave that a miss.

Having said all this, this is a really nice park and unexpected for the area, so it's worth trying to navigate if you can. We did really enjoy it here and would probably visit again.
Written August 4, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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Thorndon Country Park (Brentwood) - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go

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Thorndon Country Park is open:
  • Sun - Sat 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM



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