The Gruffalo's Trail at Thorndon Country Park

The Gruffalo trail in Thorndon Country Park, Brentwood, Essex rebranded as The Gruffalo's Child trail, but it appears to have gone back to the original name now. We went for a stroll in the deep dark wood to find out what has changed. Every year or so the characters have to be updated due to children hugging and climbing on them so they always look a little different.

A wooden carving of the Gruffalo's child next to a girl in a pink coat holding the gruffalo's child book up

The car park for the Gruffalo’s Child Trail is at the Thorndon North Entrance (CM13 3RZ). Parking is fairly expensive, but it does support the running of the park.  If you just want a quick stroll round the trail an hour will be enough (£2.30), but we have spent hours here playing in the woods and eating in the cafe so I normally pay £5.80 giving us the maximum stay of over 3 hours and no time pressures. You can buy an annual car parking ticket inadvance online for only £52 which can be used at the other Essex Country Parks including for the Stick Man Trail which is great value if you live locally. The ticket machine is card only.

A girl in a pink coat looking at a hand drawn map in a forest

You can buy a map of the trail in the Countryside Centre which is open from 9.00am to 5pm (or dusk in the winter). The maps cost 70 pence and they make it more fun, but you can probably work out the route without them. The Countryside Centre also houses a shop with a large selection of Julia Donaldson products and a tea room which sells hot and cold food. There are picnic tables outside if you prefer to bring your own food. Note that there aren’t bins on site though as they ask you to take your rubbish home to save them spending money on rubbish collection.

A baby held by her daddy is looking at a carved gruffalo with a black tongue

A girl in pink looking at a battered wooden carved large snake

When the trail was rebranded as the Gruffalo's Child trail it started with the Gruffalo, then the Gruffalo’s Child, then snake, owl, fox and finally the mouse with his nut, but as the Gruffalo Trail you go the other direction. There has been some repair work to the wooden carvings over the winter which is needed because children climb all over them. Fox has been totally replaced with a new one (I found this a little distressing because if you know where the old one was you can see they carved his head off, fortunately no children noticed this). Look out for the squirrel on the tree as you leave the trail too. 

A girl in pink hiding behind a tree stump looking up at a wooden carved fox

The trail is short and easy to follow with or without the map. The main path is suitable for pushchairs, even when it’s been quite rainy, but there are big muddy puddles (especially around the characters) so wellies might be sensible if it has been wet.
A wooden carved owl in tree
The owl used to be up in the tree, but it is now lower to the ground

Whenever we have visited the trail has been quite busy, but we haven’t had to wait long for our chance to snap photographs with the characters. There are several Gruffalo Trails round the country, including the ones by the Forestry Commission which now have augmented characters you can see with your phone, but I don’t know of any other trail which has all 6 of the characters from the Gruffalo’s child in it so this lovely trail really is worth a visit.
A wooden carved large mouse from The Gruffalo holding a large nut

There are toilets on site including baby changing and an accessible toilet. While you are there you could explore plenty of other paths or just have fun in the woods. The characters might be the motivation for going, but whenever we are there we get inspired to play for sometime afterwards. Dogs are welcome so they can come have fun too.

A girl in pink climbing over a fallen over tree


  1. We are on this. Thanks for the info.

  2. Poor fox!

    This looks loads better than the augmented trail, actually, because that must be quite confusing to children who can't see what they're meant to be having a photo with, in my opinion!

    Muddy puddles is always a good reason to visit a place!


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