The best example of Thurrock’s prehistoric past is a sunken 5,000-year-old forest seen at low tide along the foreshore. Invasive parakeets are a reminder that these parts were once tropical and wild.
An ancient island fortification at Thurrock, rare lettuce and short eared owls.
Swim or kayak Hole Haven Creek. Romans used the island as a fortified camp linked to Upper Horse.
Knowledge of the tide and dangerous currents necessary. Park next to the Lobster Smack (51.511387, 0.55346847) and walk or kayak 15 minutes from the sea wall ramp.
East of Coalhouse Fort
Swim with seals. These mammals often seen feed here in large numbers.
Park in the free car park at Coalhouse Fort (51.465364, 0.43071985), walk east along the sea wall path for 20 minutes, while looking for the path that leads out to the water’s edge.
Mar Dyke (image above)
The Mar Dyke in the company of squawking parakeets feels like a cycle down the Amazon.
Park in Harrow Road (551.541214, 0.33851087), to access the path east, onto the 10-mile bridleway, and 10 minutes to reach deep water.
The main British population of least lettuce is found among the grass and herbs of these dykes and creeks. 167.3 hectares (413 acres)
Short-eared owls hunt along the sea walls during the winter. Anthills formed by the meadow ant are common in the grassland.
Mucking Flats and Marshes
Kayak launch into Mucking Creek to explore a geology-rich foreshore – possibly the UK’s most important.
The visitor centre (51.498364, 0.44211388) provides free parking. Cycle and footpath access to The Warren, lagoons and marshes.
The best place to see bats in Essex is at Thurrock, a fossil rich zone that has the first in the UK to return the bones of jungle cats many thousands of years old.
The best place in Essex to watch three species of bat feeding on insects. The wood mainly oak, ash, sycamore, with a little wild cherry and elm.
Globe Pit is an important site for the interrelationship of archaeology with geology. The site shows a correlation between the Lower Palaeolithic chronology with the Pleistocene Thames Terrace.
Avocet regularly present, sometimes in nationally important numbers. Curlew, sandpiper and large flocks of yellow-legged herring gulls.
Jungle cats found here were the first ever recorded in the British Isles. Also fossilised wild horses.
purfleet chalk pits
Run the gauntlet of steel, rhino-like lorries, while dropping down into the pits of beyond for a look back at where we came from. Prehistoric mammals, mollusc, pollen and ostracod records.
Disused silt lagoons and salt marshes between the sea wall and high tide mark are of a kind found nowhere else in Essex. An important ‘high tide’ roosts for seabirds.
TQ70180 66.5 hectares (164 acres)
Cycle to one of many prehistoric gorges in Thurrock as part of a journey to Langdon Hills. Tramp over more than 100 miles of footpath and bridleway.
Evidence of human occupation on the banks of the Thames 200,000 years ago. The visitors’ centre holds flint workings.
Belhus Woods Country Park
These lakes were dug as gravel pits. They contain a river gravel left behind 280,000 years ago. It’s still visible in the banks.
Bridleways criss cross the highest parts of Thurrock’s Thames valley ridge. There are many places to hammock after nightfall just off the main paths.
Nationally scarce golden samphire – more common around the Mediterranean – is found here. Plant may grow up to 1 m tall and have narrow fleshy leaves and large flower heads.
Young leaves can be are eaten raw.
Particularly interesting because there are so many ant hills found around the lagoons. The nationally rare emerald damselfly and Roesel’s bush cricket.
The Dene Holes
A rare example of ancient chalk mines, found almost nowhere else in the world.
An underground hibernation site for bats: the brown long- eared, natterer’s and daubenton’s.
Two forts built in Thurrock to keep out the French, and another of prehistoric origin.
The first fort was built here by Henry VIII after he broke with Pope Paul III over an alleged marriage dispute with his wife, Catherine of Aragon.
Built in the 1860s in response to growing tension between Britain and France, it was the last in a series for Thames fortifications built after Tilbury Fort
A neolithic camp; one of only two recorded in Essex. The other is at Springfield.
Hike around Thurrock’s long lost creek to savour the scent of salty revolution or circumnavigate a castle mound.
The Peasants Revolt began here, on Fobbing Marshes. They drained Fobbing Creek, the old smugglers’ route, in the last century. The views and sense of revolt that still hangs around the elevated church air makes this one of my favourite, wild places in Essex.
To understand what Essex was before the invaders arrived (and still is beneath the surface of the chaos, noise, interference) requires only a little imagination, a little time, and the reading of this short Belmont profile (note the mound).
St. James’ Church
The church sits on an oval mound of significant ancient and religious importance. ‘Medicinal’ springs are all over the place, justification probably for the west Tilbury’s former elevated status.
Thurrock’s finest food and slumber.
The Royal Hotel
Look. I’ll be honest. This place is not going to win the Trip Advisor 5 star award. For £45-a-night, this is possibly the best value, sea-view, in Essex.
Launch at high tide, and explore the remnants of 7,000-year-old forest still seen embedded in the foreshore at low tide.
Wharf Road South, Grays Thurrock, Essex,
The Whitmore Arms
Rectory Road, Orsett, Essex.
Talks, workshops and Essex tours
Workshops for schools, scouts, guides, community groups or businesses. Learn how to wild camp and forage, or where to hike, canoe and cycle in Essex. Also, talks on the unique history of land ownership in Essex, and how to enjoy the outdoors by understanding all the laws of access.
Phone – 07947 160007
Email – email@example.com