Chafford Gorges Nature Park can be found within Chafford Hundred in Grays Thurrock. It comprises of approximately 200 acres of former chalk quarries.
Much of the Park is hugely chalk soil and some of the meadow areas are incredibly diverse with many plant species dependent on the chalk conditions, including kidney vetch, bladder campion, and nine species of orchid including the bee orchid. The range of chalky, sandy and gravely soils also supports a large number of unusual insects of national importance. The site is dominated by several large lakes, woodland and chalk cliffs all of which provide important habitats for a wide range of animals including great crested newts, slow worms, adders, bats, kingfishers and sand martins. It is likely that some of the wildlife in the Park is yet to be recorded, so please keep an eye out for any wildlife you see and let us know of any interesting sightings.
The Borough of Thurrock where Chafford Gorges Nature Park is situated has a long history, both in geological and human time. It stretches back to the earliest occupation of Homo sapiens around 200,000 years ago in West Thurrock and Chadwell-St-Mary. Considerable archaeological evidence indicates settlement, farming and industrial development starting around 10,000 years ago in the Mesolithic period and continuing through the Neolithic, Bronze, Iron, Roman and Saxon periods.
From the 18th century to the end of the 1950s a large proportion of Chafford Hundred (predominantly upland chalk area) was extensively quarried for Brickearth (used to make bricks), Gravel, and Chalk (with flint as a side product) which was used to produce lime for mortar, whitewash and from the 1870s, cement. In more recent years some of the derelict quarries were redeveloped for housing and the housing estate consortium adopted the name "Chafford Hundred" in 1987. In June 2005 Chafford Gorges Ltd, a subsidiary of Essex Wildlife Trust took over what is now called Chafford Gorges Nature Park.
Chalk deposited from 97-65 million years ago is evidence of a "Greenhouse Earth" This was when dinosaurs still roamed the land - but not at Chafford, as sea level was then around 300 metres higher than today! Our reserve would have been at the bottom of a deep, still, tropical sea. This sea then retreated, allowing erosion of the resulting land surface, before a shallower sea was re-established around 60 million years ago, when the Thanet Sand was deposited. This is present above the chalk in several localities, but is best seen at the Mill Wood Sand Cliff.
Much of it originated from ancient rocks in the Scottish Highlands, which were transported more than 500 miles to Essex along the coast by longshore drift. It also contains traces of ash from volcanoes in western Britain, associated with the opening up of the Atlantic Ocean. If you would like to learn more, why not walk our geology trail, guided by the interpretative leaflet obtainable from the Visitor Centre.
The Visitor Centre is open 9am - 5pm everyday except Monday.
Chafford Gorges Nature Park was taken over by Essex Wildlife Trust on 9th June 2005 and the Visitor Centre opened in April 2006. Visitors will be able to get involved with various activities including volunteer work parties, guided walks and talks etc. and there will be plenty of activities for local school children and college students.There are good surfaced paths in Warren Gorge and Lion Gorge but some steep inclines to negotiate.
For more information on Chafford Gorges Nature Park, please contact the Visitor Centre, email or visit the web site: www.essexwt.org.uk
Please note that any views and information expressed on this external website do not necessarily reflect those of Thurrock Council.
Advanced booking is essential for all events.
Dogs are restricted to certain areas or to certain specified times.