Country Walking in Essex: Thorndon Country Park Wildside Walk in Brentwood, Essex
Enjoy the variety of trees and woodlands found in the park, from the majestic grand old oaks to the regimented Scots pine plantations. Whatever the season the Country Park offers a unique atmosphere with plenty to delight the visitor.
Thorndon Country Park
Thorndon Country Park is 400 acres of attractive woods and parkland. The Park contains a wide diversity of landscapes. Within a short distance of the car park you can find woodland, deer pasture, hay meadows, marshland and ponds rich in wildlife. So exceptional is the natural history of Thorndon Park that most of it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
Thorndon Countryside Centre
Visit Thorndon Countryside Centre for refreshments and souvenirs. You will also find leaflets and displays to help you discover more about the Country Park and surrounding countryside.
The Countryside Centre is open in summer 10am to 5pm and in winter from 10am to dusk.
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Wildside Walks are usually 'Waymarked', but be aware that some waymarks are now in dis-repair or even missing. They are found on special posts, stiles, gates and some fingerposts. The posts are usually painted white so that they can be seen from a distance (when needing to cross large fields etc this can be very useful. Tip: Binoculars can be handy to have when looking for the white posts.)
Wildside walk plaques are bright green and unique to Wildside walks in Essex.
Yellow 'Directional Arrows' usually on circular disks indicate the direction you should follow. (Path junctions are more complicated! Each arrow indicates an alternative route, so use the map to make your choice.)
Three different types of directional arrow are used:
Plain Yellow: used on 'official' public footpaths
Yellow Arrow with Courtesy Footpath: A small number of paths are not 'official' public rights of way. Most courtesy paths are in Nature Reserves and are generally provided courtesy of the landowner.
Plain Blue: Used on 'official' bridleways. Only found on the Bicknacre walk - look out for horses and cyclists.
Points of interest along the way
Thorndon Countryside Centre
The centre is a joint venture between Essex County Council and Essex Wildlife Trust. Much of the wood used in the building’s construction was salvaged from Thorndon’s own storm damaged trees. The centre holds informative displays and light refreshments are on sale.
The Deer Park
The magnificent heavy-headed pollarded oaks and hornbeams are a reminder that this area was a deer park in the 18th century.
This is an artificial pond created many hundreds of years ago by Cistercian monks attached to Coggeshall Abbey. The pond was only dug twice this century; the first time by German prisoners of war after World War One and the second time mechanically in 1976. Keep a watch out for kingfishers and herons.
The Woodland Trust has purchased 135 acres of Hatch Farm, creating a link between Thorndon’s North and South Parks. The Trust will be planting trees to recreate a parkland landscape.
Thorndon Park Golf Course
Perhaps the only golf course landscaped by Capability Brown! Actually the course was started in the 1920s on land sold by the Petre family. The 9th Lord did pay Brown the sum of £5,000 in 1760 to landscape the area.
This field was last ploughed in 1970 and has since been used for grazing cattle. Notice the landslips which have developed on the steep clay slopes. The marshy area at the bottom of the field is home to some unusual plants such as wild angelica and fleabane. The field is also one of the best in the district for butterflies.
Old Hall Pond
This was the fish pond for the old Thorndon Hall. In the early 18th century it was incorporated into a very elaborate landscape garden plan for the 8th Lord Petre. To satisfy his passion for horticulture the 8th Lord built huge hot houses along the western bank of the pond and successfully grew pineapples and bananas!
The Waymark on Jury Hill
The Crinoline Lady
A visit to the park wouldn ’t be complete without seeing the Crinoline Lady, the name given to a very old oak pollard. The strange growth around the base of the tree is said to be caused by generations of deer rubbing the velvet from their newlygrown antlers in summer.
A good place for a seat if ever there was one! From here there are fine views across the Thames Valley to Kent.
Distance and time taken
Ordnance Survey Map
Produced in conjunction with Essex County Council
Maps reproduced by kind permission of
the Public Rights of Way Dept, Essex County Council