Thorndon Country Park, near Brentwood, Essex, offers a range of habitats in two linked sites, with woodland and heathland in the northern section and parkland in the southern section. The park includes an ancient deer park that has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The site is managed jointly by Essex County Council’s Ranger Service and Essex Wildlife Trust.
Address: Thorndon Country Park, The Avenue, Brentwood CM13 3RZ (tel 01277 211250) (Map:; OS grid reference TQ610910)
A deer park has existed on the site since the 15th century. The design of the parkland was reorganised in the late 18th century by “Capability” Brown, obscuring effects of the French landscape designer Bourginion. Other parts of the park include ancient woodland, plantations of both broad leaved and coniferous species, some grassland and three small lakes. In recent years, work has been undertaken to return conifer plantations to grassland or more natural woodland as the mature trees are harvested. The park’s rare areas of heathland are now being managed and restored by a herd of sheep and goats as part of the Essex Biodiversity project.
The northern section of the site, on a gravel ridge, consists of woodland, heathland and a remnant of deer park. The lower southern section consists of open parkland on clay soil. The two sections are linked by a surfaced track through Old Thorndon Pastures — farmland that has been restored to a traditional farming landscape with small hedged fields grazed by cattle. There are also small lakes in both sections of the park.
The park attracts many woodland birds and is a good site for seeing winter visitors such as Siskin, Redpoll and Brambling.
The park’s butterflies include Purple Hairstreak and White Letter Hairstreak.
The park’s Countryside Centre is about 2 miles south of Brentwood Station, from which it can be reached by a mainly off-road walk via Hart’s Wood and Kent’s Wood. Alternatively, from Brentwood town centre you can take bus 151 to Halfway House or bus 73 to Warley. If approaching by car, head for The Avenue, off the A128 Brentwood Road, and look for the Countryside Centre car parks. For the southern section of the country park, head for a car park off the A128 Brentwood Road just north of the junction with the A127. A parking fee of £2 a day helps support the park’s maintenance.
The park is open daily from 8am to dusk. Dogs are allowed.
Facilities at the Countryside Centre (run by Essex Wildlife Trust) in Thorndon North include toilets, a shop selling gifts and refreshments and a picnic area.
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