Thorndon Country Park
Thorndon Country Park has 500 acres of diverse habitats, managed for its precious wildlife and many visitors. With shops and tea rooms and even a designated barbecue area in the south end of the park Thorndon is the perfect place for a family picnic.
Thorndon is divided into Thorndon Park North, with the Countryside Centre, and Thorndon Park South. These areas are linked by the 'Old Park', and 'Old Thorndon Pasture'.
During your visit, don't forget to go and look for the Gruffalo on the Gruffalo Trail starting at the north end of the park.
The most important habitat in Thorndon Country Park is the ancient deer park area dating back to the 15th century which has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Other parts of the park include ancient woodland, plantations of both broad leaved and coniferous species, some grassland and three small lakes.
T: 01277 211250, Thorndon Country Park
Danbury Country Park
Originally formed in the 13th century as part of a private estate – Danbury Country Park offers ornamental gardens, lakes, woodland and meadows.
The park’s accessible, well-maintained tracks are popular with dog walkers and families, with plenty of seats and picnic benches to have a rest or a bite to eat.
The lakeside path takes you past the ornamental gardens and alongside tranquil waters, where you can see ducks, carp, moorhens, coots, grebes and sometimes a kingfisher.
Late spring is a good time to see ducklings and spectacular displays from rhododendrons in the gardens. In summer, the meadows fill with wildflowers and grasses, attracting butterflies and insects. A truly beautiful park to enjoy with your family.
T: 01245 222350 Danbury Country Park
Hadleigh Castle and Country Park
The romantic ruins of a royal castle overlooking the Essex marshes. The building of Hadleigh began in about 1215 by Hubert de Burgh, but extensively refortified by Edward III during the Hundred Years War, becoming a favourite residence of the king. What is gorgeous about visiting this venue is its simplicity. No shops, no fee for entry, just glorious views and plenty of space for your family to have fun together.
Though not within the same boundaries, Hadleigh Country park is within easy reach of the castle grounds and offers more entertainment for your family day out.
At 152 hectares (387 acres), Hadleigh Park is one of the largest in Essex, renowned for its views and undulating hills, pasture, hay meadow and marsh, old hedgerows and ponds, making it the perfect spot for a wander and a bite to eat. Showers and toilets within the country park grounds. A cafe and sensory room inside the Hub next to the cafe.
T: 01702 551072, Hadleigh Country Park
Belfairs Park and Nature Reserve
Widely regarded as the flagship green space for the area, Belfairs Nature Reserve has been managed to create a perfect home for a diverse range of wildlife.facebook.com/Michelle Jayne Reynolds
The heath fritillary is a rare butterfly reintroduced to the site ten years ago. Conservation efforts have seen numbers increase from the original 37 to several thousand - in late May to early June roughly 10% of the butterflies you will see across the reserve will be one of these delicate beauties. Try counting those with your children!
There is a Wildlife Trust visitor centre which provides information about the reserve and refreshments are available at the cafe. Or take home a souvenir from your day from the gift shop.
T: 01702 477467, Belfairs Park and Nature Reserve
Chalkwell Beach, Southend-on-sea
We are blessed in Essex with some truly beautiful beach spots. One of our favourites is Chalkwell Beach. This gorgeous beach is sandy, and at low tide a wide area of sand and shingle is revealed.
In amongst the seaweed, children will be thrilled at the potential chance of finding crabs and other marine wildlife.
There's a number of cafe's and kiosks selling all the usual seaside treats and supplies, like buckets and spades, as well as food and drink. Chalkwell Station is just a five minute walk away.
Dog Control Orders:
No dogs are allowed on Southend's beaches between 1st May and 30th September. Every person in charge of a dog (except guide dogs) who permits the dog to enter or remain on the beach during this period can be fined.
T: 01702 215620, Chalkwell Beach