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.

FREE Google Digital Garage sessions for residents of Thurrock

News from Thurrock Adult Community College. The South East Learning and Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) and the Digital Skills Partnership have been working with Google to organise some more free digital skills training. These are free for all residents in the south east of England – including of course in Thurrock

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Help for Pupils at Thameside School

Children at Thameside Primary School were thrilled to receive 20 brand new Chromebooks from the Riverside Community Big Local.

The new devices will make a huge difference to children with no access to online learning or who are sharing one device between a family.

The school has already loaned out all of its devices and has a waiting list of pupils who will benefit from the Chromebooks.

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

“We know just how hard it has been for many families trying their best to home school their children whilst working – and we know that for many families in Grays it’s just not possible to make sure that all children have the IT kit they need.

“We hope that these new laptops will improve access to learning for 20 young people here in Grays.”

Mrs Lynne Billinghurst, Senior Deputy Head at Thameside Primary School said;

“We are very grateful to the Riverside Community Big Local for their support.”

Christmas dinners for the Community

Riverside Community Big Local were kept busy over the Christmas period in the planning and execution of our Christmas dinners for the Community!

The idea was put forward by Renae Leybourn, one of our board members, and it wasn’t long before The Fleet in Purfleet had offered to cook the 50 meals for former rough sleepers, those who are vulnerable and isolated and those who had no access to a hot meal.

But these weren’t any dinners, these are Christmas Dinners, to be delivered chilled on Christmas Eve ready to be reheated on Christmas Day. Even the bags were a gift-donated by Ghurka Kitchen in Grays and each bag included the meal with all the trimmings, a Christmas hat and a special treat-a mini Christmas Cake-made and supplied by South Essex College.

The pictures show us happy elves preparing the bags and getting ready to deliver them on Christmas Eve.

A special Thank you to all at the Fleet-Dermot, Alison and Holly.

Cooking with Grays

Whilst delivering food to many of the refuges and hostels across Grays, it has been mentioned to me a number of times that they don’t want or need food that needs to be cooked as ‘they don’t like to cook’!

Whilst delivering food to a homeless women and children’s unit recently, I started talking about food and cooking with some of the residents, who promptly asked whether I would teach them to cook some simple recipes, after about a minute’s consideration-I said Yes!

Morrisons in Grays have been donating food to me for donation on to these hostels among other beneficiaries, so I wanted to include them. I have been working closely with Tarnya Bennett-Morrisons Community Champion for Grays (see picture) and she was happy to be involved in this project, even offering to buy most of the ingredients and print off the recipes.

I also had a conversation with a former colleague-Graeme Collie Head of Commercial Catering at South Essex College (SEC) and he was also very keen to be part of this project.

Week 1 of the project was about some basic ideas and I took a small group of ladies through making a basic tomato pasta sauce, then showing them one of the uses as we turned it into a cheesy pasta bake (pictured below). We discussed alternative ingredients and uses for the pasta sauce including how you could disguise vegetables in the sauce for fussy eaters.

They have requested that I show them how to make Carrot Cake Cupcakes for Week 2. I am looking forward to it. SEC will take over from me as cookery teacher after Wk 2 and I know that they have some exciting ideas to teach everyone.

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.”

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.

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