Feathers ruffled as MoD bomb found at RSPB Rainham Marshes

The mortar following the explosion (pic: RSPB Rainham Marshes)

The mortar following the explosion (pic: RSPB Rainham Marshes) - Credit: Archant

Birdwatchers – and a field of cows – had to be evacuated from Rainham Marshes when an unexploded bomb was spotted during landscaping work yesterday.

A group of birdwatchers found themselves watching a controlled explosion (pic: RSPB Rainham Marshes)

A group of birdwatchers found themselves watching a controlled explosion (pic: RSPB Rainham Marshes) - Credit: Archant

Police and bomb squad technicians were drafted in to deal with the high-explosive mortar – discovered at about 8.30am – with a controlled explosion.

The first sighting of the bomb (photo: RSPB Rainham Marshes)

The first sighting of the bomb (photo: RSPB Rainham Marshes) - Credit: Archant

Workers shut the marshes but kept the visitors’ centre, deemed to be at a safe distance, open. The reserve reopened at about midday.

Luckily the bomb was a dud, so – aside from a few ruffled feathers – there was no damage.

“A big group of ducks flew up, circled round and flew back again,” said Louise Moss, the nature reserve’s communications officer.

“But we’d already had the diggers in, and we moved all the cows out of the area, so there weren’t that many birds around.”

The mortar was dug up during “reprofiling” work around the hides to improve the area for wading birds.

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“Our warden Nicola was out with the contractor and saw this piece of metal,” said Louise.

“The marshes are an ex-Ministry of Defence training ground, so we’ve got to be aware of these things.

“Because of the state of the casing they couldn’t confirm whether it was a dud, so they had to do a controlled explosion.”

The RSPB took over the site from the Ministry of Defence in 2000.

The Ministry of Defence, which had used the grounds in part as a firing range, cleared it before handing it over – but occasionally bombs are still dug up.

Louise said it had been “a couple of years” since the last incident.

Were you there? Call the news desk on 020 8477 3903 or e-mail ramzy.alwakeel@archant.co.uk. To find out more about Rainham Marshes, visit http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/r/rainhammarshes/.