Thorndon Nature Discovery Centre

Thorndon Country Park
The Gruffalo

Photo: Carol Durrell / River Photography

Thorndon Country Park events
The Gruffalo Trail Mouse


The Thorndon Nature Discovery Centre is situated in Thorndon Country Park. There are some fantastic walks through ancient woodland and historic deer parks which lie close alongside recently planted woodland and a landscape of small pastures.


Thorndon Park North,
The Avenue
CM13 3RZ
A static map of Thorndon Nature Discovery Centre

Know before you go

226 hectares

Parking information

Please note there is an hourly rate parking charge that goes toward the maintenance of the park. This is enforced by Essex County Council. Season tickets are available – please ask for details at the Thorndon Nature Discovery Centre.

Bicycle parking

Bike parking available

Grazing animals

Sheep, goats and cattle.

Walking trails

Various routes around the park.


Various routes around the park with most being wheelchair and buggy friendly. Please contact the visitor centre for further details.


Dogs permitted
Dogs are only permitted in the park but not in the visitor centre or on events / birthday parties.


Visitor centre
Bird hides
Picnic area
Accessible toilet
Baby changing facilities

When to visit

Opening times

Thorndon Nature Discovery Centre is open 7 days a week 10.00am-5.00pm.

Best time to visit

All year round

About the reserve

The Nature Discovery Centre is managed by Essex Wildlife Trust and the Park is managed by Essex County Council in a joint venture.

The Nature Discovery Centre offers some unique gifts and books, a separate education room, refreshments and displays. There are regular activities for children, schools and families. Few areas offer such variety as Thorndon country park and its surroundings. Ancient woodland and historic deer parks lie close alongside recently planted woodland and a landscape of small pastures, while nearby is the high forest of Hartswood and former common land.

Thorndon Country Park is in two parts, the northern section on a gravel ridge and the southern part on clay soil lower down. The two parts are now linked by Old Thorndon Pastures, which is farmland that has been restored to a traditional farming landscape with small hedged fields, grazed by cattle.

Thorndon Countryside Park offers a variety of habitats including ancient woodland, parkland, ponds, a marsh and meadow. There are some stunning ancient trees including Giant Oak and Hornbeam pollards, that are reminders that this was once a deer park. Parts of it used to be heathland, now a scarce habitat in Essex, and to restore it parts of the park, both north and south, are being grazed by goats and sheep.

park attracts a large number of woodland birds and sees more than its fair share of passage migrants and winter visitors. For example, large flocks of Siskins and Redpolls often gather in the birches, and bramblings can be seen near to the centre feeding on beech mast. There are many butterflies to be enjoyed including the uncommon Purple and White-letter Hairstreaks.

The park is managed by Essex County Council's Ranger Service who are returning Conifer plantations to grassland or woodland as mature trees are harvested.

The Nature Discovery Centre in Thorndon Park North was built just after the 1987 hurricane and fallen timber from a number of Essex Wildlife Trust nature reserves was used in its construction. It is the Trust's most popular centre with over 100,000 visitors per year, and provides refreshments, a gift shop, displays and interpretation.

Contact us

Nature Discovery Centre
Contact number: 01277 232944

Environmental designation

Ancient Woodland
Country Park
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)