Thorndon Park circuit
Woods and open country in and around the Park
Summer or autumn
Massive ancient trees in Thorndon Park and Hartswood, plus fungi in autumn; wild flowers in The Old Park.
Some muddy paths in wet weather
Train or bus to Brentwood station (and walk to B), or park at the visitor centre in Thorndon Park North (A)
2½ hours for the circuit. Add an hour for the walk to and from Brentwood station.
Undulating terrain with a few short steep sections, on well-defined paths and tracks, mostly unsurfaced; a few gates but no stiles.
Click on a marker on the map for route details
Stage AB: Countryside Centre to Little Warley Common
From the entrance road, walk through the car park and past the centre and turn right on to the track that runs past the picnic areas. Continue straight on past the remnants of the metal fence that divides Thorndon Park from Little Warley Common, until you meet a footpath running across at right angles.
Stage BC: Little Warley Common to Childerditch Pond
Turn left to follow the footpath through the woodland of Little Warley Common, then straight on across intersecting footpaths and down the slope into the stream valley. After crossing a footbridge turn left to follow the stream down, passing another footbridge on the left, then at the next footbridge turn right to come out into a sloping meadow. Bear left to follow a grass path downwards through the meadow, with the stream and beyond it woodland on your left. Go through the gate at the end of the meadow and continue past Childerditch Pond on your left.
Stage BG: Return to Brentwood station
Turn right to follow the footpath up to The Avenue and cross to the footpath directly opposite. Follow this through the open woodland of Little Warley Common; bear left on crossing a stream into Harts Wood and continue through mature woodland until you come to a roadway. Turn left to follow this down to the road, crossing to an entrance to Donkey Lane Plantation almost opposite. Follow the bridleway until you come to a crossing footpath, turning right to follow it out on to Guardsman Close. Turn left at the end, then take the path into the woods on the right about 200m down. Follow the path right through, forking right at the T-junction, emerging into Oxford Court. Turn left out of Oxford Court, following Headley Chase then Avenue Road, and turning right at its end down to the station.
Stage CD: Childerditch Pond to Thorndon South
Turn left on to a path across the foot of Childerditch Pond, then immediately right on a grass path down the slope, bearing left at the foot of the slope to head up a steep hill. At the top of the hill fork right to follow a surfaced bridleway for a short distance, then continue on grass until you join a loose-surfaced track – formerly Old Hall Lane – at the entrance to Hatch Farm. Turn right to follow it between avenues of lime trees. Ignore two grass paths leading off left and take the third, with woods on the left and a fence and open meadow on the right. At the end of the meadow you enter Rookery Wood, and can either walk straight through it and turn right on to a grassy path, or turn right midway and walk in to and round the pond (a good picnic spot), continuing on the path beyond it to come out on the same grassy path, again turning right. Follow the path down through meadows and three gates past Ruin Wood, turning left when you meet the bridleway. Follow the bridleway down, with a hedge on your right and below it the noisy A127, and straight on into Thorndon Park South.
Stage DE: Thorndon South to The Old Park
Turn left shortly after entering Thorndon Park South and follow the track that runs around Old Hall Pond. Passing across the marsh at the head of the lake, turn right then shortly left up a bank to a crossing path, turning left again to follow it out of the woodland then through two long glades, then through the stock fence out on to a broad path. Turn right through a gate to follow it along the edge of the Thorndon South woodland, with the recent plantings of The Old Park on your left, reaching an intersection at the corner after 300m and turning left over a footbridge.
Stage EF: The Old Park to Thorndon North
After the footbridge, turn shortly left again via a gate into The Old Park and follow the mown grass path through and out on to the surfaced bridleway. Continue up this for c. 400m until you come to another gate straight ahead where the surfaced path veers right, and again follow the mown path through the plantings and past a pond, emerging on to the surfaced track again and turning left to join the road at the south-east corner of Thorndon Park North.
Stage FA: Through Thorndon North to Countryside Centre
Cross the road and go through the gate immediately opposite. Follow the well-trodden path (there are several side paths) through the open parkland, then across the car park, taking the righthand gate on exit. After 200m or so you will see the Countryside Centre on the right.
Stage GB: Access from Brentwood station
On leaving the station turn left then, a short way up the hill, turn left into Avenue Road. Continue straight on into Headley Chase, then turn right into Oxford Court. A surfaced footpath leaves to the right of the furthest house: follow it up through the wood, forking left at the T-junction halfway. Turn left on emerging into Woodman Avenue, then first right into Guardsmans Close, continuing on the footpath straight on into the woods of Donkey Lane Plantation. When you meet the bridleway, bear half-left to follow it down to Hartswood Road, crossing to continue into Harts Wood itself. On meeting a crossing footpath turn right to follow it through woodland to The Avenue. Cross The Avenue with care (poor visibility) and take the footpath that runs straight on into the woodland from the start of the entrance road to Thorndon North.