The Marshes: A hidden wildlife gem in Rainham

The RSPB centre at the marshes provides food, shelter and souvenirs for visitors.

The RSPB centre at the marshes provides food, shelter and souvenirs for visitors. - Credit: Archant

The tranquil beauty of Rainham Marshes provides a sanctuary for wildlife including thousands of birds thanks to the RSPB.

The RSPB centre at the marshes provides food, shelter and souvenirs for visitors.

The RSPB centre at the marshes provides food, shelter and souvenirs for visitors. - Credit: Archant

The vast swathes of green marshland sitting just north of the river Thames provide an ideal habitat for birds, ­insects, butterflies, frogs and rodents.

The RSPB centre at the marshes provides food, shelter and souvenirs for visitors.

The RSPB centre at the marshes provides food, shelter and souvenirs for visitors. - Credit: Archant

One of the few remaining ancient landscapes left in London, the marshland dates back to medieval times and up until recently was closed to the public.

For more than 100 years the site was owned by the government and used as a military firing range but in 2000 the RSPB acquired the land and ever since has been fostering a thriving wildlife environment.

Louise Moss, RSPB communications officer for the marshes, said: “It’s an ­absolutely brilliant place, the wildlife here is amazing.


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“It’s not just about the birds there are a huge number of butterflies, dragonflies, moths, bees and water voles.

“There’s a whole world of wildlife to experience.”

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For the past two years the marshes have played host to the kingfisher, a bird resurgent in the UK, but it has not successfully nested.

Exciting

Louise said: “We are really hopeful of successful nesting this year. It would be the first time they have properly nested here and it is really exciting. It’s pretty tense waiting to see what happens!”

The visitors’ centre has recently installed a manmade anthill, mimicking the real ones found on the marshland, which acts as a miniature adventure playground.

Louise added: “The area isn’t just great for wildlife but also for local people to come for a relaxing stroll and enjoy the marshland.

“We put on plenty of activities to allow people to get right up close to the wildlife if they want to but we also have an adventure playground for children as well as a café for adults to ­relax in and a wildlife shop so there is plenty to do.”

The landscape of the marshes is shaped by its military history. It served as a training ground for soldiers in the first and second world wars.

The southern perimeter wall has rows of weathered numbers which would have had paper targets over them and the ground undulates in places due to channels and banks used to mark out shooting distances.

The marshes also boast a gunning emplacement, an anti-aircraft gun stationed there during the Second World War to fight off the Luftwaffe, as well as a number of fake boats which were used to fool the German aircraft into thinking there was a fleet stationed on that part of the Thames.

Louis feels the military history of the site makes it unique.

She said: “It gives a little something different to the reserve and the wildlife have grown accustomed to it. When we took over the site there was a lot of work to do to the place but it has been worth it.”

Visit rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/r/rainhammarshes/

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