With the family in tow I finally got to visit the Thurrock Thameside Nature Park near Stanford-le-Hope in Essex this morning and jolly good an outing it was too. The park is on a small corner of the Cory landfill site near Mucking and is not that easy to find if you don’t know where to look. It is worth looking though…
As you would expect the park has its own website that can be found at http://www.essexwt.org.uk/reserves/thurrock-thameside which includes details of how to find it but I’ve included a map below for good measure.
If you are travelling by road then you need Mucking Wharf Road which is off the amusingly named (to 11 year old boys anyway) Butts Lane. At time of writing the park is not signposted until you are a fair way along Mucking Wharf Road once you have crossed the railway level crossing.
Driving up the dirt track and over the cattle grids on the way up the hill to the visitor centre I was driven to remark to wifey that it felt like we were driving up onto Dartmoor due to the barrenness of the place. This view was helped obviously by the cold wind blowing from the east
and having our backs to the Stanford-le-Hope and the Essex plains behind.
Once at the top of the hill you see the Thames laid out before you (and the Cory terminal for unloading London’s garbage) and the Essex Wildlife Visitor Centre over to the left. To be honest the Cory terminal is soon forgotten and the visitor centre is striking and a very interesting and thoughtfully designed building.
We went straight into the visitor centre for a look around and very nice it is too. I love the ‘snug’ that they have in the middle with a wood burner to warm you after a cold walk. There is a great area for eating buns and snacks with a hot drink from the snack bar which looks out over the marshes plus a education area where that day was a rabbit and some newly hatched chicks (being Easter I guess) plus decent toilets and the obligatory (rather nice) items to purchase.
A door from the seating area takes you outside and onto a unique and fabulous feature of this circular building designed with disabled visitors very much in mind – a ramp that winds 360 degrees around the building to deliver you to the rooftop viewing area. It was very (very) cold and windy there on our visit but in the summer I would think it would be a brilliant place for 360 degree views of the Thames and the surrounding area. Really excellent.
Part of the reason for my visit was to see what I could see of the new London Gateway Port – about which I know quite a lot and I have visited a few times during its construction – and to see its newly delivered quayside cranes. Once open – and with a pair of binoculars I would think it will be a great place to watch the ships coming in and out and unloading. I will return to do so once the first phase of the port opens later this year.
Outside of the visitor centre is 120 acres of wild nature park which will eventually be expanded to nearly 500 acres once the landfill site is completely capped. It is all grass and scrubland as there is only 1 metre of soil over the garbage which is not enough to support trees. In the later stages there will be an area of trees plus a large lake that already exists. One of the EWT staff was telling me of the expansion plans and showed me a plan of the final park arrangement.
Currently there is a small network of paths with a mile circular walk (that is okay for bikes too) with links down to the entrance. There is also a disabled access loop from the visitor centre to the single bird hide and back which is restricted to walkers and disabled visitors. I walked the perimeter track and was serenaded by birds tweeting away (proper tweeting – not twitter tweeting). A GPS plot of my walk can be found here (if you are as sad as me tracking it while I walked).
We walked to the bird hide and my lad got all excited and enjoyed looking out at the birds. So much so that we went back to the visitor centre to see if we could hire some binoculars. It turned out we couldn’t but one of the staff loaned him his own pair which was brilliant. Back to the hide and the lad spent a good while watching the waders.
We spent a good 90 minutes at the park and will definately return – maybe when it is a bit warmer. I would recommend you visit too!
You can see an album of photos of the park and visitor centre and views of the area here.