There are very few ancient landscapes remaining anywhere in the Greater London area, but Rainham Marshes is one of them. This landscape was untouched for centuries as it was set aside for a military firing range over 100 years ago. Consequently the land form was unaltered and much of the natural habitat remains to this day. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) acquired responsibility for the land from the Ministry of Defence in 2000. RSPB then set about transforming it into a useable nature reserve for people to visit. Officially opened in 2006, Rainham Marshes is now the largest remaining expanse of wetlands bordering the upper reaches of the Thames Estuary. With approximately 1,015 acres of marshland, this reserve is an excellent place for Londoners who wish to experience nature. Given that it is only 9 miles east of Canary Wharf, and the Orbit is clearly seen from here, this nature reserve is a stark contrast from the city on the horizon.
There are over 2.5 miles of boardwalk style nature trails making it is easy to get around the reserve. When visiting you can expect to see breeding wading birds in spring and summer, and large flocks of wild ducks in winter. Typical birds seen here include the Avocet, Lapwing, Little Egret and Ringed Plover. Birds of prey, such as the Peregrine, and rare birds are regularly seen here too. Numerous mammals, including a large population of water voles, are found here too.
Visitor Centre: The visitor centre has large picture-windows that look out across the marshes. Inside the centre are a shop, cafe and childrens play area. There are also several bird hides within the reserve.
Events: Special events are scheduled throughout the year with a focus on nature walks and birdwatching walks for novices to experts. See their website for full details: http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/r/rainhammarshes/index.aspx
Hours: The Reserve is open: 1-Nov to 31-Mar 9:30 am - 4:30 pm and 1-Apr to 31-Oct 9:30 am - 5pm. Admission fee for non-RSPB members is £3 adult, £1.50 child, £9 family. RSPB members and Havering residents free.
Nearest Rail: Purfleet (on the C2C line from Fenchurch Street). The reserve is a 15 minute walk from the station following the brown pedestrian signs along the riverside path. Turn right out of the station and then join the path at the Royal Pub. Follow the Riverside path and then cross the Mardyke Bridge to the Visitor Centre.