Cover image: Duncan Eames Wildlife Photography
Rainham Marshes, situated on the eastern edge of Greater London, is one of southeast England’s premier RSPB nature reserves, providing a great location to escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city.
Any time of year is a good time to visit Rainham. The visitor centre is easily accessible both by car and public transport, and it’s just a ten minute walk from Purfleet train station. At the visitor centre you can talk to friendly, helpful staff about what’s in the reserve. You have lunch in the cafe, and there’s a gift shop downstairs so you can pick up a great RSPB branded gift or a gift membership for friends and family.
In the depths of winter, Rainham Marshes is alive with thousands of wintering birds and January is an excellent time to visit. Nothing quite compares to witnessing the spectacular swirls of undulating lapwings, whistling wigeon and other waders and ducks as they are spooked by hunting peregrines and marsh harriers over the marshes. It truly is a magnificent wildlife spectacle. There is always the possibility that rarer birds of prey such as short eared owl and merlin may overwinter.
Rainham boasts big wide open skies with amazing views over the ancient marshlands and the river Thames flows right beside the reserve. You can even walk along the Thames side path into London and enjoy the magnificent sunsets.
Through the glistening frosty reed beds listen for the squealing calls of water rail and the pinging of bearded tits, both of which are present in good numbers. In some years the marshes are even lucky enough to attract a wintering bittern.
Wintering flocks of redwing and fieldfare assemble on the reserves small area woodland, in search of berries. In some particularly cold years the sweet chiming bell calls of waxwing can be heard, often around the visitor centre.
Active in Nature
The RSPB provide you with the opportunity to enjoy wildlife from an inspiring new perspective. Climb, cycle, run … there is something for everyone at the reserve. Hire a bike and explore along the Thames river wall – look out for seals basking on the shoreline and kestrels hunting overhead. If you want to find out a bit more about the wildlife or history of the reserve, book a guided cycle ride, and your leader will take you on a route pointing things out along the way. Head to the climbing boulders and give yourself a challenge – go up and down or round and round, bouldering at Rainham is for everyone, from experienced climbers to those who have never climbed before. We offer workshops where an instructor will provide tips on technique to help you develop you skill. Take your run off the road and join the Rainham Harriers running group on a Sunday morning – the brisk winter air, and low sun gives a perfect setting for a morning jog, surrounded by tranquillity and wildlife.
There are plenty of opportunities to keep you busy all day at Rainham Marshes, from Nordic pole walking to pond dipping, slack lining to minibeasting. Get closer to nature and discover something new.
Active in Nature is a funded partnership project with Sport England aiming to reconnect people with the outdoors and nature, whilst fostering a healthy lifestyle. Inspiring people to enjoy nature across the wider landscape will help us to save it. Being active in nature is also a great way to keep you and your family healthy and happy. Access to green, natural spaces improves both our physical and mental wellbeing. Spending time in nature rich environments can really help improve people’s quality of life through stimulating and encouraging physical activity, which in turn can help to alleviate a range of psychological and physiological problems.
This Girl Can cycle, climb, run, explore, discover nature and more at Rainham Marshes this April 2017! There will be a month long plan of activities, blog posts and more celebrating the This Girl Can is a national campaign developed by Sport England and a range of partners. It’s a celebration of active women up and down the country who are doing their thing no matter how well they do it, how they look or even how red their face gets. Keep your eyes on the website for more information.
Rainham Marshes Nature Reserve
New Tank hill Rd
- Opening times: 09:30 – 17:00 (16:30 from November to February)
- Entrance prices: Free for RSPB members, £5 adults, £3.50 child