After opening over 130 years ago, and becoming neglected during recent times, Grays Town Park has been given a new lease of life through the hard work of a local group and the award of several grants. 

The Park is now gradually being returned to its Victorian finest, and it is hoped many visitors will come to enjoy its gardens and a proposed new community café.

Grants from Thurrock Council, Riverside Community Big Local and a £10,000 award from Tarmac’s Landfill Communities Fund* have enabled the gardens to be overhauled and major landscaping work to be carried out, making the Park attractive once again to local residents and visitors to the area.  This funding will be used for the transformation of the landscape garden on the East side of the Park.  This will include removing dead trees, adding new plants, to help create biodiversity to encourage local wildlife, and a clean-up of the large decorative rocks.

As well as this work, the organising group, the Friends of Grays Town Park have plans to revamp the shelter, turning it into a community café; and upgrade the steps at the Bridge Road entrance, to allow for better access for people with disabilities and families visiting the Park.  It is hoped the landscaping work will be completed and the café up and running by the end of May 2021. And the new entrance will be ready be the end of July.

Tina Holland from the Friends of Grays Town Park said: “This is a really exciting year for our Park.  With the aid of these grants, we can start to return the Park to its former glory, whilst catering for our visitors’ 21st Century wishes.”

John Cox, Tarmac’s South East Terminals Operations manager who is based at the nearby West Thurrock Depot, added: “Given that the park was originally a brick quarry in the 1800s, it seems very appropriate that another building materials company, Tarmac has been able to award a grant for the landscaping work to take place. 

“We are pleased that this important local green space will be rescued and improved so that the local community and visitors to the area can enjoy it again.”

The Park was formerly a brick quarry in the 1800’s. It was the first public space in the area to be given to the people in 1887. In 1930 a shelter was built in the park, by a local family in remembrance of their husband and father Jonathan Seabrooke, a prominent local businessman and owner of Seabrooke brewery in Grays. It remains a fine example of a Victorian park.

Litter Pick at Falcon Wood

A small team of Riverside Community Big Local volunteers spent Sunday morning picking litter from the piece of land along Bridge Road known as Falconwood.

Working with local residents and organisations the Big Local plans to create a Pocket Park on this previously un-cared for land.

As part of these plans the Big Local thinned out some of the dead and dangerous trees and started to level off the land. The levelling off revealed a large amount of rubbish that had been buried for many years.

In all volunteers collected 24 sacks of cans, bottles and other rubbish – as well as a number of larger items of rubbish.

Chair of the Riverside Community Big Local, Andy Blakey, said;

“Falconwood is a hidden gem and we plan to work with residents to make it a really pleasant place for people to enjoy. It time, we will look to put some appropriate seating and other amenities but – for now – the efforts of volunteers on Sunday has made to the area that bit nicer to look at and walk through.

“Thanks to Steve, Anton, Jacqueline and John for giving their time and to Thurrock Council for disposing of the rubbish collected.”

Orchard Forum cleaning alleys

Volunteers from the Orchards Community Forum were out again on Saturday morning tidying up alleyways around the Grove Road area, in Grays.

Chair of the Orchards Forum, Tina Holland, said; 

“18 months ago it would have taken many people half a day to clear these alleyways. Now we managed to tidy them in a couple of hours – we know they are far from perfect but the improvement is clear to see.

“We really can’t allow these alleyways to fall back into the state they were last year. That’s why we will continue spend a couple of hours, once a month, to make sure we keep on top of them.”

Details of alley cleans can be found on the Orchards Forum Facebook page.

Chair of the Riverside Community Big Local, Andy Blakey, said;

“I want to thank Tina and all the Orchards Forum volunteers for their hard work in keeping these alleys as clear as possible. They really are making a difference to their local community. Thanks as well to Thurrock Council for helping by disposing of the rubbish collected.

BeacherCombers cleaning up Grays Beach

On Sunday morning, around 20, Grays Beachcomber volunteers spent a couple of hours in the sun collecting waste plastic and other rubbish from along the river front in Grays.

They collected 26 sacks of rubbish which included over 220 single use plastic bottles that would otherwise have been washed back into the Thames.

This Sunday, they also collected a number of empty drinks cans that will be used to help create an art installation known as a “Mandala,” as part of this year’s T100 festival.

After the volunteers finished their hard work they were treated to a well deserved bacon sandwich and a drink at the Lightship Cafe – the cafe in Grays Beach Park.

Chair of the Riverside Community Big Local, Andy Blakey, said;

“Around the world eight million tonnes of waste plastic make their way into our seas and rivers. Those plastics break down and end up being consumed by fish – much of which we eat.

“The work of the Grays Beachcombers is one small way of raising the profile of this issue as well as helping improve our local environment. I want to thank every one of them for their hard work and the Riverside Community Big Local is pleased to make sure they all get something to eat and drink afterwards.”

The Grays Beachcombers meet on the first Sunday of the month, 10.30 outside Thurrock Yacht Club.

Trees for the Community

Many plants were donated to the Neil Ruch memorial space at Hogg Lane Ambulance Station and some people had kindly donated trees which would unfortunately grow too large for the available space.

When we were planting up the new garden area, I noticed that there were several birch trees in a number of pots which I suggested would not be suitable for the raised beds. I then spotted a young horse chestnut which could grow up to 75’ and even an oak tree which could reach over 100’.

These obviously would not be suitable to grow amidst the lavender and buddleia which we were planting to give paramedics a peaceful and relaxing space to use whilst at work.

This story has a happy ending, the ambulance station have kindly donated the trees to ‘Green up Grays’, a Riverside Community project and they were collected by RCBL board member Jim Graham who also works on ‘Friends of Elm Road Open Space’ and they will be planted with permission of Thurrock Council.

Ambulance Station Memorial Garden

From this to this 


When local paramedic Neil Ruch sadly died from Covid 19 in May, his colleagues wanted to create a memorial garden for him.

Riverside Community heard about this and offered to help. Local construction companies came forward to help to create an area at the rear of the Hogg Lane ambulance station, including a patio and some raised beds.

All they needed now was some plants……and some know-how!

Just 3 hours and a dozen volunteers later and a Caribbean island had been created, the perfect place for paramedics to relax in between calls. Ok, the fantastic mural was created sometime earlier but the rest was completed in that short time.

Riverside Community Big Local working with Smiths Orchard Garden Centre have provided the compost, topsoil and all of the plants to complete the planned sensory and wildlife-friendly area which is being completed with bird table and feeders.

The paramedics have worked out a watering rota to keep the garden looking its best, although I don’t think even the rain would spoil this lovely sunny garden spot.

Next clean up at Grays Beach Sunday 8th November 10:30

Dolly is bagging another bottle. Even Storm Francis couldn’t dampen her enthusiasm last Tuesday.

Dolly is 6 years old and is very keen to clear up the rubbish around the Thames as she has learnt about it at school. 

She loved the day with all of the volunteers, making friends with everyone. Her big sister said her favourite find was the “wand” which was actually a weird looking fork haha!

Together with a little help from the other volunteers, Dolly filled 31 sacks including 223 single use plastic bottles.

Steve Catchpole said “I am looking forward to seeing Dolly and all the other volunteers at a future event very soon.”

Future events:

Saturday 26th September – Friends of North Thames Estuary – meeting at the Tilbury Fort, Tilbury RM18 7NR – 10:30 to 13:30. If you have your own equipment, picker, hoop, gloves, face mask and sturdy walking shoes, please bring them. We will be walking at least 3 miles collecting river rubbish along the foreshore – Limited facilities available – 8 places available.

Sunday 4th October – Friends of Grays Beachcombers – meeting at Thurrock Yacht Club, Grays RM17 6JF at 10:30 until 12:00. Foreshore tidy. If you have your own equipment, picker, hoop, gloves and face mask please also bring along sanitising hand wash. – Limited facilities are available – FULLY BOOKED.

Sunday 8th November – Friends of Grays Beachcombers – meeting at Thurrock Yacht Club, Grays RM17 6JF at 10:30 until 12:00. Foreshore tidy. If you have your own equipment, picker, hoop, gloves and face mask please also bring along sanitising hand wash. – Limited facilities are available – Only 6 places available. Please note the alternative date.

Sunday 6th December – Friends of Grays Beachcombers – meeting at Thurrock Yacht Club, Grays RM17 6JF at 10:30 until 12:00. Foreshore tidy. If you have your own equipment, picker, hoop, gloves and face mask please also bring along sanitising hand wash. – Limited facilities are available – 14 places available.

During these strange times pre-booking is critical. Do not attend unless I have confirmed your places.

To book a place please email Steve Catchpole at

Post Lockdown care for Planters

Volunteers have been working hard to brighten up the area around the Lightship Cafe at Grays Beach Park.

Led by local resident, Tricia Nicholls, new ornamental planters have been filled with plants and flowers and work has started on maintaining other planted areas.

Chair of the Lightship Cafe CIC, Tina Macklin, said;

“The Lightship Cafe relies on our dedicated volunteers to keep going. Tricia has recently joined us and has done a fantastic job brightening up the area outside the cafe.

Owing to Covid, we haven’t been able to do as much as we would have liked and have started late in the year – with Tricia’s help I am sure we will have a stunning floral display right through next summer.

Chair of the Riverside Community Big Local, which supports the Lightship Cafe added;

“We had a generous grant from Thurrock Council’s Community Environmental Development Fund to buy new, self watering, ornamental planters for the park. They are looking really good and the feedback from park users has been really positive.”

Successful Litter Pick

Volunteers from the Orchards Forum were out on Saturday clearing rubbish from the alleyways around Benson Road, Salisbury Road, Richmond Road and Kent Road.

Tina Holland, Chair of the Orchards Forum, and was one of the volunteers said;

“When we started clearing local alleyways, last year, we would need six council trucks an alley to take all the rubbish away. Today, after visiting numerous alleys around Benson Road, we didn’t quite fill one truck. What a fantastic difference the community has made by working together!

“We know other alleyways are not as clear as these and we will get round to them as soon as we can – as always, the more volunteers we have the more we can get done!”

Andy Blakey, Chair of the Riverside Community Big Local, said;

“This is another great effort from by our local community and I would like to thank each and every one for their time and effort – thanks as well to Antonio Rodrigues, from Thurrock Council for making sure the rubbish was taken away.

“Next month is the Great British September Clean when we will be out cleaning up grot spots around the Riverside Community area. If you know of an area that could do with a clean you can use the link below to add it to the list – you can also use the link to volunteer to help out with a clean up.”

see the Great British September Clean for how you can be involved

Over 10,000 plastic bottles removed already this year

We have already picked 10,000 plastic bottles along the estuary this year. This is the first time we have picked so many bottles in less than a 3 month period… more proof that what we are doing is really important.

Following DP World London Gateway’s decision to stop any external meetings by their employees, their involvement in the litter picking event on Wednesday has reluctantly been withdrawn.

On Wednesday Jamie from the RSPB will be holding an event starting at 10:00am at the Visitor Centre. So rather than run two events I suggest we all support the RSPB event. They will be picking along the foreshore lower path and on the reed beds.

Please contact the RSPB if you plan to attend so they can ensure the right amount of equipment etc. Hope you can join us on Wednesday, I will bring the good weather!

Currently Thurrock has no known cases of the virus, but to reduce the risk of contamination may I suggest you bring your own gloves and you ensure you wash your hands before and after the event. Also consider the 2 metre distance where possible during the event.

Wednesday 18th March – meeting at RSPB Rainham Marshes Centre in Purfleet RM19 1SZ at 10:00. This is an RSPB organised and run event. Please make sure you register your interest with the RSPB before attending on 01708 899851.

Other events are currently continuing as planned, if this changes I will advise.

Wednesday 25th March – meeting at old St Clements Church RM20 4AL at 10:30 to 13:30. We will be picking along the Graffiti Wall. This event will include up to 4 miles walking so comfortable walking shoes/boots are recommended. This is an adult only Thames21 River Action Group event and forms part of the Great British Spring Clean.

Wednesday 1st April – meeting at St. Margaret’s Avenue SS17 0SH to pick Mucking Creek at 10:30 to 13:30. This is an adult only Thames21 River Action Group event and forms part of the Great British Spring Clean.

Sunday 5th April – meeting at Grays Yacht Club RM17 6JF at 10:30 to 12:00 followed by free refreshments in the café. Grays Beachcombers is a monthly Thames21 River Action Group family friendly event suitable for accompanied children 6 years and older. On this occasion it forms part of the Great British Spring Clean.

Wednesday 22nd April – as part of Earth Day 2020 we will be meeting at Grays Thurrock Yacht Club RM17 6JF at 10:30 to 12:30. This is an adult only Thames21 River Action Group event in partnership with Tilbury Green Power Station employees.