Close to Lakeside and within the buzz zone of the M25 there sits a connected set of gorges. Not your ordinary gorges, however: these are what remains of three chalk quarries, Warren Gorge, Lion Gorge and Grays Gorge. Worked from the end of the 18th century for about 150 years, this was an important centre for cement production and a significant local employer. If you visit Lion Gorge you’ll be able to spot the remains of the old 19th century tramway which carried the chalk to the riverside wharves of the nearby Thames.
The gorges now form an Essex Wildlife Trust nature reserve. I’m the first to admit I’m not a keen birdwatcher, but even I was impressed to see so many geese, some with goslings toddling along too. I think I’ve identified them correctly, but please do put me straight if I haven’t!
Geologists will be impressed by the reserve. Fossils have revealed that the area was once a tropical sea – yes, tropical Essex, who knew? There’s an information board at the visitor centre if you’re keen to find out more.
Though quite small, it’s a great place to stretch your legs. Gentlemen, this could even be the perfect man-crèche while the wife goes to Lakeside. From the visitor centre car park, it’s an easy half an hour stroll down into the bottom of Warren Gorge, looping the lakes and then up to the quarry rim. Dogs are permitted, but seasonal nesting means that at this time of the year they’ll need to be on leads to keep those tiny chicks safe.