A doggy day out in… Brentwood

In January 2020, I became a columnist for Essex Life magazine, writing about doggy days out in and around the county. Here is my article about Brentwood…

Ernie sniffs out the elusive Gruffalo at Thorndon Country Park in Brentwood
Finding the Gruffalo at Thorndon Country Park in Brentwood

What to see

Sniff out the elusive Gruffalo on a woodland walk through Thorndon Country Park. The Gruffalo Trail, with its hand-carved wooden sculptures, brings Julia Donaldson’s children’s book to life. The trail takes around 25 minutes to complete – pick up a map from the Visitor Centre for just 70p. Thorndon also has a dog activity trail with hoops, hurdles and tunnels, should you want to put your pooch through their paces.

Animal lovers will enjoy a trip to Hopefield Animal Sanctuary, where dogs on leads are welcome. The charity, which has been caring for sick and injured animals since 1983, is home to everything from pigs to peacocks and has X Factor star Leona Lewis as its patron. Open from March to December, entry is £6 for adults while dogs go free. Pets are also allowed inside the vegan tea room.

Weald Country Park makes for a great day out, too. There are more than 500 acres of land to explore and herds of fallow deer graze in the park. Children will love the 2km Stick Man Play Trail and when you’ve all worked up an appetite, you can refuel at the Wigley Bush Café onsite.

Ernie waits patiently for a treat at The Olde Dog in Herongate
Ernie waits patiently for a treat at The Olde Dog in Herongate Tye

Where to eat

Head to The Olde Dog in Herongate Tye. This historic inn dates back to the 16th Century and is renowned for its hearty pub grub. Pets and their owners should grab a table in the Doghouse – a small section of the pub that’s especially cosy in winter. There’s a jar of treats by the fireplace and barrels of water for dogs in the garden.

The Nag’s Head is another great dog-friendly pub, just a few minutes’ drive from Weald Country Park. Pets are allowed in the bar area, and they are also welcome at The Greyhound, in Warley. Be sure to ask staff for a dog treat!

In Brentwood town centre itself, check out The Brentwood Kitchen. This funky eatery is best-known as a brunch spot but also serves delicious coffee and cake. Dogs are welcome inside.

Ernie's column about Brentwood in Essex Life magazine
The Brentwood column in the April 2020 edition of Essex Life magazine

While you’re in the area

Visit the not-so Secret Nuclear Bunker in Kelvedon Hatch. From the outside, it looks like a normal house but it’s actually the biggest Cold War bunker in the South-East, buried 80ft underground. Entry is £7.50 for adults and well-behaved dogs visit free.

The bunker does have a café but the nearby Ethos Brothers Café is well worth checking out. Dogs are very welcome at this cool vegan café where you can play on retro gaming machines while you refuel.

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