• tropigaladventures


Updated: Oct 17

Most people have probably not heard of Thurrock, but mention ‘Lakeside shopping centre’ also known as intuLakeside and suddenly people understand where you are talking about!


West Thurrock (Lakeside) is quite literally a shopper’s paradise with the main shopping centre and a number of retail parks, eateries and supermarkets all within a 1 mile radius! You’ll find your favourite high to low end shops selling clothes, shoes, furniture, jewellery, food and more. Ikea, Matalan, Costco, B&M, Currys PC World, Decathlon, Primark, Zara, TK Maxx and Deichmann to name a random few.


Within the shopping centre itself and around the retail complexes is a plethora of eateries housing the majority of your favourite chains! Whether you fancy something quick and on the go such as KFC or Mc Donalds or are looking for a dine in restaurant such as Wagamama, Nandos or TGI Fridays. Perhaps you just fancy something sweet from Creams café. No one will be left hungry when you visit Lakeside. There are always moments when everyone wants a different cuisine, which is when you rule out the fuss and head straight to the food court!


Prior to the intu group taking over Lakeside shopping centre, the most fun thing aimed to entertain children on a daily basis were the swan boats for hire around the lake and the kids push along cars for hire by adult shoppers – which are still available by the way! Since the takeover, you can now find Partyman World of Play, Flip Out and Nickelodeon Adventure as well as Rock Up, Puttshack, Hollwyood Bowl, Vue Cinemas, Mini Port and the Upside Down House where adults can even join in on the fun too! A short drive away is Lakeside Karting, with a 900metre long track suitable for ages 3 and above.

The 2 best times of year to visit are Summer and Christmas. Every Christmas, Santa’s grotto comes to town and the centre is elaborately decorated elevating your entire shopping experience into a magical one! During the summer months, book yourself into the Aqua Park with over 30 inflatable obstacles to splash your way through – it’s the ultimate day out for those aged 6 and over (minimum of 1.2m tall) – perfect for cooling down during the impromptu heatwaves we have been experiencing!

For those with children under 6 or under 1.2m tall, there is an alternative option to stay refreshed and still have just as much fun only a 10 - 15 minute drive away. Grays Beach Riverside Park is a manmade space with a sand pit play area, an open field and onsite café. It was said that in March of this year, major works were taking place to revamp the space and improve accessibility to the play area including: a new ship and castle replacing the old iconic galleon play equipment, upgraded splashpad area, new Parkour outdoor sports, health and fitness area, surfacing and path work.

play ship at grays beach riverside park

Thurrock Gorges

About a 10-minute drive from Intu Lakeside are The Thurrock Gorges made up of former chalk quarries known as Warren Gorge, Lion Gorge and Grays Gorge together with the connecting land of Mill Wood and Wouldham Cliffs. Each site is dominated by large lakes, woodland and chalk cliffs, all of which provide important habitats for a wide range of animals and insects. It’s a great area to break away from the hustle and bustle of the main centre for the whole family.

The main and largest of the 3 is Warren Gorge, where the car park is located. The walk down into the recreational area is steep, windy and uneven – I highly recommend wearing comfortable walking shoes or trainers when visiting here! There are 2 main lakes and surrounding picnic areas – you may find yourself having some gate crashers at your table, by which I mean geese, swans and ducks of all sorts that await a visit and to be fed. If you are going to feed them; grains, oats, seeds and even fruit is a better alternative to bread which doesn't offer enough nutrition, but rather bloats their stomach. Walking around the bottom of the gorge, you will see how the chalk meadows have been reconstructed to accommodate the wildlife below as well as maintain the foundations of the homes above.

warren gorge pond with geese

If you walk out of the car park and veer towards the left, round the corner is a sign for Merlin close, parallel to which is a public footpath which will lead you straight to the next gorge… Grays Gorge is right across the road and whilst the views of the inner workings of the tank house are worthy of walking up the hill, the rest of the grounds were quite disappointing and bare in comparison to what is said to be seen.

Saving the best to last, Lion Gorge is a short walk from Grays Gorge. It is the premises of a community fishing club and the majority of the area has now been closed off by gates for their privacy and protection, but it is still worth a visit on clear summers day, just to see the reflections of the clouds and chalk cliffs in the water. On a quiet day, it also makes a great meditation spot!


Location: Chafford Gorges Nature Discovery Park, RM16 6RW

Parking: Free

Facilities: Picnic areas, No toilets, Dogs must be kept on a lead

Approximate trail time: 2 - 3 hours

Best time of year to visit: All year round, dry weather

Accessibility: Not wheelchair/pushchair friendly

Environmental designation: Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

Photo Credit: healthylifeessex.co.uk


If you’re travelling from further afield or just need a little more time to experience the area to its fullest in one go, there are plenty of hotels nearby including The Thurrock Hotel and a range of Premier Inn’s. If you want to be amidst the action, Travelodge Thurrock is in the best location, right next to Intu Lakeside.

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