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Comparing the two Essex Gruffalo Trails!

Comparing the Gruffalo Trail at Thorndon Country Park to the NEW Gruffalo Party Trail at Thames Chase.

Gruffalo Party Trail and Thorndon Sculpture Trail

A brand new Gruffalo Trail has opened in Essex! At the end of January 2024 the Forestry England Gruffalo Party Trail opened at Thames Chase Forest Centre, Upminster. The trail celebrates 25 years of The Gruffalo story by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.

If you want the full details on the newest Gruffalo Trail, you can check out our comprehensive guide to the NEW Gruffalo Trail HERE.

Gruffalo party trail Forestry England

How does the Gruffalo Party trail at Thames Chase, Upminster compare to the Gruffalo Sculpture Trail at Thorndon Country Park in Brentwood...

Gruffalo Sculpture Trail - Thorndon Country Park, The Avenue, Warley, Brentwood, CM13 3RZ

Gruffalo Party Trail - Thames Chase Forest Centre, Pike Lane, Upminster, RM14 3NS

Sculpture Trail vs Activity Boards

The main difference between the trails is that the Thorndon trail is a series of Gruffalo sculptures. You can find all the classic Gruffalo characters from the Julia Donaldson story. The sculptures are substantial and the attention to detail is brilliant.

There are no sculptures at the Thames Chase trail. The trail at Thames Chase consists of several activity boards. The boards have pictures of the Gruffalo and characters. The boards have educational prompts and activities for children to complete and learn about the forest. There are also brass rubbings throughout the trail, which is a nice touch. The trail is suited to a younger audience. Forestry England recommend age 3-9 years.

Unlike the previous Zog Trail at Thames Chase, there is not an App associated with the trail.


The Thorndon trail is set within woodland.

The Thames Chase trail is a series of pathways through some open fields.

Both trails are muddy!


Both trails are free. 

At Thorndon you can buy a trail map from the visitor centre. Last time we visited it cost 50p. 

At Thames Chase you can buy an activity pack for £4 from the visitor. The pack contains an activity booklet, pen and crayon, stickers, a headband and sew on patch. It is not essiential to buy but does increase the experience. If you do not wish to buy the pack, the trail starts at the overflow car park (not the one closest to the visitor centre)


Thorndon - Up to 1 hour £2.50, Up to 2 hours £3.80, Up to 4 hours £5.10, All day £6.30 

Thames Chase - £2 all day 

Trail length

Both trails take around 30 minutes to complete. 

Accesible/Buggy Friendly

The Thorndon trail is set within woodland pathways. The trail seems to always be muddy (even in good weather). There are also inclines within the woodland. Therefore, the Thorndon trail is not wheelchair accessible. It is passable with a very sturdy outdoor buggy only.

The Thames Chase trail is on pathways, which are mainly flat. Although it is still very muddy, it is more wheelchair accessible and passable with buggies.


There are visitor centres at both Thorndon and Thames Chase. There are shops contained within both visitor centres. There are cafes at both sites and also toilets at both sites.

What else is there to do there

The Thorndon trail is set in beautiful woodlands. There is so much space to explore. There are plenty of dens to discover. There is no playground.

The Thames Chase Trail ends close to the playground and visitor centre. The enclosed playground is small. There is a large climbing frame with slide, a separate climbing frame, baby swings and a nest swing. There is also a climbing structure with seats underneath. The playground is suitable for children up to junior age.

Which trail?

These trails are very different! Ultimately it is up to you which you think your family will enjoy more and find more engaging. My children remain captivated by the Gruffalo Trail at Thorndon, even though we've visited more times than we can count.

Peter Rabbit Trail

Stick Man Trail

Don't forget to check the Park Directory for more park inspiration - A-Z of over 100 Parks in Essex


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