COVID-19 Visitor Information May 2020

Explore Essex FAQs and updates

Essex Country Parks Reopening

We are pleased to announce that all our Essex Country Parks will be reopening on Thursday 21 May.

Following the easing of restrictions to outside space announced recently by the Government, ECC Country Parks team have been working over the past few weeks to put in place necessary safety measures to ensure the parks can open in line with government guidance, and ensuring visitors and staff can remain safe.

The parks, car parks and toilets will be open to the public, however the children’s play equipment, visitor centres and cafes will remain closed, in line with government guidance.

We would ask that all visitors using the Essex Country Parks follow current government and NHS advice and social distancing rules, paying particular attention to these in areas such as the car parks and toilet facilities.

We anticipate that the parks will be busy, and so ask residents to use their judgement in relation to their visit – considering the time of their visit and the park they choose to visit for example.

(Jaywick Martello Tower, Essex Record Office, our owned Mills and Essex Outdoors remain closed at this time.)

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Important changes to the use of Essex Country Parks:

Temporary changes to opening hours

From 21 May our parks will operate restricted opening hours. All Country parks will open at 9:00am and close at 5:00pm. Please keep checking the opening hours as these are likely to change.

Car parking

If you are planning to visit one of our sites we would encourage you to download the car parking payment app in advance of your visit to minimise contact with the payment machines. Further information can be found here.

You will also be able to pay with card or cash as usual, but we would advise you to bring your own santiser or wipes to clean your hands before and afterwards.

Please be aware that once car parks become full, the parks will then need to close to further visitors.

Purchasing angling passes

Fishing will be permitted during Park open hours at the following sites: Belhus Woods, Danbury and Weald however we will no longer be accepting cash payment on the day of your visit. If you are intending to fish you will need to purchase a fishing pass online in advance of your visit which you can do here.

Please note we will only be offering day passes during this reopening period.

The Parks reopening on 21 May are listed below.

Sky ropes and play equipment will not be available at any of our sites until further notice.

  • Belhus Woods Country Park
  • Cressing Temple Barns
  • Cudmore Grove Country Park
  • Danbury Country Park
  • Great Notley Country Park
  • Hadleigh Country Park
  • Marsh Farm Country Park
  • Thorndon North Country Park
  • Thorndon South County Park
  • Weald Country Park


What are the opening times of the Country Parks?

The Essex Country Parks will be open to the public from 9am - 5pm, these times are subject to change, please keep checking and ensure you exit the car parks on time.

Will I need to social distance in the Parks?

Social distancing should be adhered to at all times. Members of the public are asked to remain 2m apart from anyone outside of their immediate household in line with government
. Please pay particular attention to these rules in areas of the parks which could become busy such as car parks and toilet facilities.

Read more about the UK government's advice here.

Are car parks open, and will you accept cash?

In order to help reduce the amount of contact with our parking machines we are encouraging all visitors to pay for parking by downloading the MiPermit mobile and online app which you can do here.

Pay and display will be available, but if you want to use this method of payment we would advise you to bring your own santiser or wipes in order to clean your hands before and after use.

Explorer Pass holders (car parking season tickets) will be able to use their Explorer Passes as normal.

Please be aware that car parks will need to close if they reach capacity. In this event the parks will also need to close to further visitors.

Will my Explorer Pass be extended?

Yes, all Explorer Passes that were valid as of 23 March 2020 will automatically be extended by the length of the Park closures. These have been updated on the system, so you don't need to do anything.

Will the toilets be open?

Toilet facilities will be open at each Park and we are implementing an enhanced cleaning regime. Visitors should be aware that they will need to keep 2m apart when queuing for these facilities. These facilities will be more limited than usual due to social distancing measures that need to be observed. The toilets will be operated on a 'one in, one out' system to the toilet block.

Visitors should be aware that if they plan to wash their hands whilst using the Parks they may wish to bring their own hand sanitiser and wipes.

Are the cafes and visitor centres open?

All of our cafés, visitor centres and shops on Park grounds will remain closed for the time being.


Please note that no BBQs are allowed at any Parks at the present time.

Can my children use the play areas and equipment?

All kids’ play areas and equipment will remain closed to the public in line with government advice.

Is the Gruffalo Trail open?
The Gruffalo characters are currently undergoing a refurbishment, so visitors to Thorndon North will not be able to follow the trail at this current time.

Is the Stick Man Trail open?

No, the Stick Man trail at Weald Country Park is predominantly children’s play equipment so this remains closed at the present time in line with government guidance.

Does my dog need to be on a lead?

Whilst we are in a 'phased reopening' we politely ask that dogs are kept on the lead until further notice.

Can I fish and how do I purchase my pass?

Fishing will be permitted during Park open hours (not at night).

Where fishing is permitted, we will no longer be accepting cash payment on the day of your visit. Anglers will need to purchase a fishing pass online in advance of their visit for these sites: Belhus Woods, Danbury and Weald. These can be purchased here.

Anglers will need to show proof of purchase on the day by bringing a print out of their pass or having it ready to show to a ranger on their phone.

Can I meet people from outside of my household at Country Parks?

Visitors are asked to adhere to government advice.

You may meet one other person from outside your household and you must practice social distancing at all times. Please avoid gathering in a group or meeting more than one person from outside of your household.

Is exercise permitted?

You can use the country parks to undertake exercise such as walking, running and cycling as usual. However, this should be done in line with government advice.

Is Sky Ropes open?
No. Sky Ropes will remain closed in line with government guidance on gyms and play equipment.

Is Rubbish being collected?

Please take your litter home.

Are there regular checks being carried out at Parks?

In accordance with government guidelines around public safety, we will continually monitor our park usage and undertake regular risk assessments. We reserve the right to close our Country Parks again should public or staff safety be at risk

Previous FAQS
Are any events or activities still running?

No. We regret to announce that we’ve made the difficult decision to cancel all events at our parks and places including Cressing Temple Barns until end July 2020, including all third party run events, in light of the evolving COVID-19 public health threat and the government’s national guidance around gatherings and social distancing.

What does this mean for weddings?

We have made the very difficult decision to suspend weddings until the end of June at the earliest at both Cressing Temple Barns and Essex Record Office.

We are in the process of contacting all of those immediately affected by this closure and we will not be taking any new bookings for 2020 at this time. We are still accepting enquires for 2021 and can pencil in bookings but will not be able to confirm them until further guidance from the national government in the coming months.

We look forward to welcoming you all back as soon as it is safe to do so.

Are there any services available at the Essex Record Office?

The Essex Record Office building will be closed to the public from Monday 23 March until further notice.

All scheduled events at the ERO have already been cancelled until at least the end of July and ticket holders notified.

We are however hoping to maintain several digital services during the closure period of the physical building, all of which will be under constant review. You can access these through our website:

Currently these include:
• Email enquiries about the records we hold
• Catalogue search
• Subscriptions and access to digital images of historic Essex parish registers and wills, as well as some electoral registers

Does this mean The Lock Climbing Wall is also closed?

Yes, the team at The Lock Climbing Wall have made the difficult decision to close.

We can confirm that all, current, subscriptions will be frozen for the duration of our closure and will be re-activated on our subsequent re-opening.