A doggy day out in… Thurrock

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 Thurrock…

Pillbox at Coalhouse Fort in East Tilbury
Pillbox at Coalhouse Fort in East Tilbury

What to see

Enjoy a quiet riverside stroll around Coalhouse Fort Park in East Tilbury. The fort, which dates back to the 1860s, was originally built to defend the Thames Estuary but today, the park that surrounds it is the real attraction. Here, you’ll find everything from a boating lake to play areas and a café. You cannot normally go inside the fort but it opens up several times a year for special events.

One Tree Hill, just outside Corringham, is a great place for your dog to enjoy some off-lead action. This ancient woodland is part of Langdon Hills Country Park and there are footpaths aplenty to follow. The Thameside Nature Discovery Park in nearby Mucking is also well worth a visit. The former landfill site, beside the River Thames, has been given back to nature. Pets are allowed everywhere aside from the shop and café. But if you buy a drink or bite to eat, you can seek shelter in the Dog House – a painted shed with a table and chairs inside!

For somewhere a bit different, try Chafford Gorges Nature Park, in the heart of the Chafford Hundred housing estate. This 200-acre reserve has a network of pathways that take you round the lakes, meadows and woodland. Dogs must be kept on lead at all times. Nearby, you’ll also find Grays Chalk Quarry Nature Reserve and Davy Down in South Ockendon.

Sign saying Dogs Welcome outside Chafford Gorges Nature Park
Sign outside Chafford Gorges Nature Park

Where to eat

If you’re looking to celebrate a special occasion, head for The Bell Inn in Horndon on the Hill. This 15th Century coaching inn has previously been named one of Britain’s best gastropubs by the Good Pub Guide and regularly features in the national newspapers. Dogs are welcome in both the bar and garden and there are also a number of dog-friendly rooms, if you’re keen to stay over.

There are several other places in Thurrock where you can enjoy a bite to eat with your four-legged friend. If you plan to visit Coalhouse Fort, be sure to pop in to the Engine Room Café onsite which, as you might have guessed from the name, is housed in a former engine room. Alternatively, try the community-run Hardie Park Café in Stanford-le-Hope or The Dog and Partridge in North Stifford. The Lightship Café at Grays Beach also has plenty of outdoor seating for dogs and their owners.

Ernie's Essex Life column about Thurrock
The column in the April/May 2021 edition of Essex Life magazine

While you’re in the area

Head to Thorney Bay Beach over on Canvey Island. Restrictions apply during the summer months but certain parts are dog-friendly all year round. Pets are also allowed inside the historic Lobster Smack inn, a short drive from the main seafront. It is said to have inspired the pub in Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations.


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