Chafford Gorges circuit
Circuit through Chafford Gorges Nature Park in Chafford Hundred
June–July for wild flowers
Wild flowers and insects in summer, and bats over the lakes in the evening; geology of the chalk cliffs, and nesting raptors such as sparrowhawks.
Traffic noise on parts of the circuit
Start and finish at Chafford Hundred station, or start there and return from Grays; or park at the Chafford Gorges visitor centre
Steep slopes and steps into and out of the quarries, but otherwise easy going on mainly surfaced paths; some short sections on roads.
Click on a marker on the map for route details
Stage AB: Mill Wood to Warren Gorge
Go up the steps and follow the path round to the right and into Mill Wood. Emerging from the wood on to Rainbow Road, cross to turn left on the cycleway that runs parallel to the road, then continue straight on as the road turns left. At a T-junction with another cycleway, signed Warren Gorge, turn right and follow it along the edge of the gorge until you come to a gate on your right.
Stage BC: Warren Gorge
Follow the surfaced path down the slope into Warren Gorge, continuing straight on at the bottom to cross the bottom of the quarry between the lakes. Or, if you prefer, turn first right and follow the path along the edge of the southern lake. Both routes bring you out at the bottom of a path that zig-zags up the opposite slope. Turn right beyond the gate at the top to walk along to the visitor centre.
Stage CD: Warren Gorge VC to Grays Gorge Approach
Cross the car park behind the visitor centre and turn left on Drake Road. A short way beyond the righthand bend Merlin Close turns off right. Here you have a choice: either follow a path along the cliff top that you enter a short way up Merlin Close on the left, or continue further along Drake Road and turn right on a surfaced path that runs down beside the cliff face. The path along the cliff top offers more interest but the slope down at the far end is steep and can be very slippery in wet weather. This path brings you out on Devonshire Road a short distance before the entrance to Lion Gorge: turn left along Devonshire Road to meet the other, easier path down.
Stage DEF: Grays Gorge top bench
Cross Devonshire Road, go up the bank opposite and turn left along the footpath, following it past the sign at the top of a flight of steps leading down into the quarry (point E), and continuing along a sometimes narrow bench running halfway round the quarry. Eventually you emerge through a gate into open grassland, with a path on the right leading to steps down into the quarry, and the path also continuing straight on towards Grays.
Stage FEG: Grays Gorge floor
Turn right and go down the steep steps into the quarry, turning right at the bottom and following the path across the quarry floor, turning right at the next junction and continuing past the lake, then turning right again and climbing the steps that lead up at the far end of the quarry. Turn left at the path junction (point E) and follow the path all the way through to Devonshire Road
Stage GH: Lion Gorge
Continue along Devonshire Road until you come to a gated opening on the right leading into Lion Gorge. Bear left after entering and follow the path round, with views across the lake and the cliff face beyond it on your right, then zig-zag up the slope and out on to Mayflower Road.
Stage HA: Lion Gorge to Mill Wood
Turn right on Mayflower Road and follow it over the first roundabout, turning right at the second by Chafford Hundred Campus School. Halfway round the lefthand bend a cycleway turns off right. Follow it up to the end of Saffron Road, continuing straight on up the steps to continue the circuit, or walking along Saffron Road to return to Chafford Hundred station. For good views across the Thames or just because you fancy it, scramble up the slope of Thames View Hill on your right, and follow the path along the top of the ridge.
Stage IF: Access from Grays station
Cross the road outside the station and walk across the car park to the left of the supermarket, then bear left and then right to walk up to Eastern Way. Turn off left into Bankfoot a short way up, before a righthand bend. Just before you reach the houses a footpath turns off on the right, leading up the slope through scrub then levelling off to run beside Hogg Lane on your right. The path emerges into open grassland, at the end of which you meet the path intersection just short of Grays Gorge (point F).
Stage JA: Access from Chafford Hundred station
Cross the forecourt outside Chafford Hundred station, then go straight ahead beyond the roundabout into Saffron Road, following it across another roundabout to its end, where you turn left on to a cycleway, then shortly right, following the path across towards the steps up to Mill Wood.