Chafford Gorges Nature Discovery Park located at Drake Road, Chafford Hundred. It has more than 200 acres of green space and is rich in wildlife.
The visitor centre is set in a spectacular position over-looking Warren Gorge – check the Chafford Gorges Nature Discovery Park website for latest opening times.
Facilities at the visitor centre include:
- a café
- a gift shop
- wheelchair accessible toilets
- baby changing facilities
- free car parking
Features of the gorges include:
- well surfaced paths but some steep inclines
- a variety of habitats, including grassland, meadow, ponds and woodland
- a variety of plants and wildlife, including orchid, bats, newts and glow worms
- picnic areas at Warren Gorge set within meadows and beside lakes
There are 5 main areas in the nature park:
- Warren Gorge is the largest gorge and at its base there are meadows and lakes – ideal habitats for chalk-loving plants, kingfishers, house martins and orchids
- Lion Gorge has a large lake containing tench, rudd, pike and bream – it is also home to 4 different verities of bat. Dogs must be on a lead
- Grays Gorge contains 9 species of orchid and other wild flowers, along with reptiles such as adders, slow worms and grass snakes, as well as species of birds, butterflies, bees and beetle
- Mill Wood is an ancient woodland that supports a range of wildlife
- Wouldham Cliffs form the backbone of the nature park and has views over Lion Gorge – in summer this area is inhabited by butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies
History and geology
From the 18th century to the end of 1950s, a large proportion of Chafford Hundred was extensively quarried for Brickearth to make bricks, gravel and chalk, with flint as a side product. These were used to produce lime for mortar, whitewash and – from the 1870s – cement. The nature park was created within the disused quarries with the Chafford Hundred housing development built around the edges.
Much of the area is formed from chalk, deposited from 97 to 65 million years ago, at the bottom of a tropical sea, which was around 300 metres higher than today. The sea retreated which allowed erosion of the resulting land surface before a shallower sea was re-established 60 million years ago, when Thanet Sand was deposited – this is best seen as the Mill Wood sand cliff. Visitors can walk a geology trail guided by a leaflet available from the visitor centre.
Chafford Gorges Nature Discovery Park is operated by Essex Wildlife Trust.
To find out about volunteering with Essex Wildlife Trust, go to Essex Wildlife Trust volunteering.