Rainham Marshes

Now, I am not a bird watcher enthusiast but after a recent visit to Rainham Marshes I think I could become one.  During my visit there was quite a lot of excitement caused by a pair of Marsh Harriers.  The enthusiasm and joy displayed by the volunteers and birdwatchers as they watched the pair of harriers swooping low across the marshes was contagious.

I arrived at the RSPB nature reserve by car and the first thing that hits you when you open the door is the bird song.

Volunteer Brenda Clayton explained the lay out of the reserve and advised the best route to take. You can hire a pair of binoculars for just £2.  The reserve itself is an oasis of unchanged landscape surrounded by the remnants of an industrial past.  The perimeter path of the reserve is 2.2 miles. Running alongside the reserve is the Rainham to Purfleet Riverside Path.  So you get two perspectives the marshes and the river.  Be prepared to be stopped short by the sudden flight of a heron or the sound of an unfamiliar bird. The walkways will take you through the deep reed beds.  Here you will come across Bog Wood which dates back 6000 years to the neolithic period.

Rainham Marshes

It is thanks to the Ministry of Defence that this small patch of riverside marsh has been left untouched. From 1906 this land was out of bounds to the public as it was one of the largest military camps for small rifle training.  If you want to find out more about the military history there is a leaflet which is a self guided walk available in the visitor centre.

Shooting Butts Rainham Marshes

I was particular struck by the friendliness of the volunteers and other visitors to the marshes.  The volunteers are always happy to answer any questions and they will point out the best places to go to see more wildlife. You can book a guided tour with a volunteer and I think that this would be well worth it.  The Sunday Stroll scheme is another opportunity to have the benefit of one of the volunteers.  This is available every other Sunday.

The cafe in the visitor is worth visiting for the views and the food. The dining area has a double aspect so there are views of the Thames or the marshes.  The food is sourced locally and there are a good range of savouries and pies made by Holly Bush Farm in Suffolk.  Maggie and her team in the cafe make cakes and there are a good range on sale.  I had a blueberry gateaux which was delicious.

Entry into the reserve is £3 although it is free for residents of Thurrock and Havering. Up until the 31st October the reserve is open 9.30am to 5pm.  From Ist November opening is 9.30am to 4.30pm.  The nearest station is Purfleet.  By car it is easily accessible from M25 and A13.