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“Lovely park, much better before the Gruffalo trail”

Thorndon Country Park
Ranked #1 of 10 Nature & Parks in Brentwood
Certificate of Excellence
More attraction details
Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: 2-3 hours
Owner description: 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.
Useful Information: Food available for purchase, Bathroom facilities, Activities for young children, Activities for older children, Wheelchair access
Reviewed 7 June 2014

Thornton has been a family favourite for years with its great walks and nice cafe. Since the Gruffalo trail was added it is TOO BUSY the the parking provision cannot cope. It has now become an amusement park and while it is good that more people are experiencing the outdoors it has come at a huge price.

1  Thank JW B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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"gruffalo trail"
in 120 reviews
"picnic area"
in 21 reviews
"north entrance"
in 5 reviews
"rubbish home"
in 5 reviews
"dog walkers"
in 8 reviews
"fishing lake"
in 5 reviews
"great country"
in 5 reviews
"country park"
in 16 reviews
"pay and display"
in 6 reviews
"great outdoors"
in 4 reviews
"lovely walk"
in 5 reviews
"run around"
in 4 reviews
"great for kids"
in 5 reviews
"lovely place to visit"
in 4 reviews
"sand pit"
in 5 reviews
"half term"
in 4 reviews
"great afternoon"
in 5 reviews

271 - 275 of 335 reviews

Reviewed 5 June 2014

We came here on a sunny day!

Mainly in search of Gruffalo!

Its a lovely place - lovely well tended woods. Only went to the woods surrounding the gruffalo bit - had intended to explore more but we spent 5 hours building a house, doing balance beams, climbing, following the Gruffalo trail, jumping in mud, digging and eating.

It would be peaceful too if it weren't for all the little screamers running around!

Gruffalo and his friends are all well done, and finding them is just about difficult enough for a 7 year old.

Also went into the café - reasonable selection of sandwiches, cakes etc.

Yes it costs £3 to park - but I can't think of that many similar places that are worth going to that don't charge for parking these days.

1  Thank Acornise
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 28 May 2014

Plenty of open space as well as extensive woodland.Walk all day or just a few minutes. plenty of paths around the visitors centres or linking them together.

Thank ffredember
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 21 May 2014

A great place for a long walk, we come here often with our dog. There are lakes and deer in an enclosure. There is a cafe too.
Make sure you have change as there is a parking fee

1  Thank candyrio27
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 6 May 2014

Some boys took a stroll through a deep dark wood .... going Gruffalo hunting.

While researching trails for kids for my blog on the Internet I came across many fantastic reviews for Thorndon Country Parks Gruffalo trail but it was too far for us, that is until mum asked if I had any plans for our few days at hers. I checked the address and discovered it was in Brentwood (I once went to guide camp near there) which is not too far at all from hers. After the last disappointment I didn't tell the boys where we were going, that and the fact if the heavens opened it would be a write off but come the Saturday, having checked the weather which looked as if the worst we'd get were light showers we headed off, armed with welly boots.

The Gruffalo trail map was well worth the 50p cost to teach the boys simple map reading skills

We were advised the trail would take about an hour.... possibly it could be if you have normal children but mine were a bit pre-occupied with hunting the creatures out and virtually ran around the woods!! This was not a problem tho as we had aimed to go out for lunch so had based the trip on one to one and a half hours. You could easily stretch the day out by exploring the rest of the park and taking a picnic.

The trail starts with a squirrel before heading onto tell the story.... before finding mouse, owl, snake and fox. The statues are perfectly sized for children to cuddle, climb and play around, however the owl is different. we all know owls live in trees and this owl is no different. We commented how the tree was just perfect - it was naturally made to be Owls home.

The map has various activities to do along the route such as den building and listening for sounds.

We found the Gruffalo's child looking very lost clutching her stick man....but what was that in the clearing ..... could it be??
His eyes are orange....
His tongue is black
He has purple prickles all over his back

Oh help! Oh no! It's a Gruffalo!

We finished the trip playing king of the castle on the mounds and testing out our balancing on logs.

Other useful information

The Visitor Centre includes a shop, information boards and a small tea room it's open daily from 9.30am

There are toilets in a shed behind the visitor centre and a covered picnic area with plenty of picnic tables available.

Pay and display car park is £3 in the summer and £2.50 in the Winter which allows you to park as long as you like. The North car park is the best to use for the Gruffalo Trail but parking is very limited.

Take welly boots ..... you'll be very glad you did!!!

4  Thank chickywiggle
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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