Chafford Gorges, Grays
Location: Chafford Gorges Visitor Centre, Drake Road, Chafford Hundred, Grays, Essex
Client: Essex Wildlife Trust
Architect: Laurie Wood
Status: Completed 2004
An old narrow gauge railway ran roughly south from the chalk diggings to the Lion wharves cutting created in the nineteenth century to transport chalk from Lion Pit to the riverside tramway - Warren Gorge. Lion Gorge and Grays Gorge were worked from the end of the 18th century for around 150 years. Lion Gorge is the remnant of an old chalk quarry the reserve is now based on the site of three old Portland cement factories which opened in 1874. (Until about 1980, Thurrock was a major centre for cement production.) Part of the course of the railway can be seen under the bridge where the railway line crosses a path from The Chase to Hedley Avenue and is also visible on London Road between The Chase and Foxton Road.
Plant life includes bee orchid, common spotted orchid. Trees include beech, oak, ash and sycamore. Pondlife and fish species present include bream, pike, rudd, and tench. In winter there are a number of birds present and these include pochard and redpoll, siskin the Gorges are also visited by other birds such as house martins and Cetti's warblers and reed, sand martins, woodpeckers, and kingfishers. Animal life includes crested newt and the pipistrelle bat, the brown long-eared bat
The park has been described as the finest area for geology in south Essex. Fossils show that the area was once a tropical sea. There is a "geological trail" and a guide is available which describes the development of the chalk deposits over the course of 85 million years
The Nature Park is set in a spectacular position overlooking Warren Gorge. The park offers 200 acres of green space for wildlife and people of Chafford Hundred. A network of pathways Chafford Gorges is set in a spectacular position overlooking Warren Gorge. Chafford Gorges nature park offers 200 acres of green space for numerous wildlife and recreation for the 12,500 people living in Chafford Hundred. take you around the lakes, meadows and woodland. You can get up close and personal with the wildlife, history and geology of the site.
The visitor centre is now only open to schools and group bookings.
The design brief given by Essex Wildlife Trust after consultation with the Chafford Hundred Residents Association was to soften car park using mainly native trees and shrubs, the bank in front of the entrance was stabilised using a timber groin system and planted using native climbers. Native trees were planted down the bank in front of the deck area whilst the picnic area was seeded using a native wildflower mix. An urban garden installation was built as a feature in the picnic area using some wildlife gardening tips including shallow water, nesting boxes, a bespoke hibernaculum and composting area.