A STROLL THROUGH TIME AT RSPB RAINHAM MARSHES
Monday 18th January 2021 was Blue Monday, also known as the most depressing day of the year and many of us, I am sure, have been hit with this feeling the entire month since Lockdown 3.0 was announced, therefore, we might as well call it Blue January!
Whilst there may not be much that we are allowed to do, thankfully, we are still able to head outside and take a stroll amongst nature. This is an important action in prioritising our mental and physical wellbeing – no doubt some of you reading this had the age-old New Year’s resolution to get fit. Well, I’m here to tell you to either stop putting it off or keep at it! Whichever of the two categories you fit into, I hope this post will inspire you to get outside, even if it is for just one hour a week. However, please maintain social distancing and follow all precautions as stated by the government!
RSPB Rainham Marshes can be easily accessed from the A13, M25 and you can even catch a glimpse of it as you zoom by on the Eurostar! The ancient low-lying grazing marshes spread across 411 hectares of land within the Thames Estuary. “What makes it ancient?” I hear you ask! The reserve was a former military firing range, which has been turned into a great place to spot different species of birds, reptiles, invertebrates, cattle and much more, with plenty of the military heritage still intact!
As you head towards the visitor centre from the carpark, you will see the picnic area, kids play area and the first of many conservation habitats. Here is where the toilets and shop are located, head up the stairs and you will see the entry point to the café. Inside, not only are you able to purchase food and beverages, but for the true nature lovers, you can also hire binoculars to take with you on your walk – or buy a pair if you really want to! Tucked away in the corner is also a book exchange and kids play area. You can either head through the café to begin your walk through the guided nature trails or steer left at the top of the stairs and take the more rugged path.
Let’s begin by heading through the café and on towards the nature trail! This is also the most suitable route for wheelchair and pushchair users – there is an accessible route from ground level off the carpark. Through this trail you will find yourself closest to all the wildlife that can be found within the reserve. Continuing along the trail, you will come across viewpoints and hides, where you can stop to really focus in on what is in front of you. These are also great spots where budding photographers can capture the beauty of nature. Eventually, the military heritage will come into sight and as you get closer, be sure to watch out for the placards which provide information about how this site was used as a military base over 100 years ago! You will finally make your way to the ‘Woodland Discovery Zone’ and adventure play area before finding yourself back in the carpark.
Whilst there are many ponds along the Circular route, you may fancy a stroll by the river instead. In which case, starting back at the top of the stairs, take the more rugged path along the Thames on a riverside walk. I say rugged, because of the gravel and stones that create part of the path - that’s also my way of hinting that you should wear comfortable and sturdy shoes by the way. This path connects Rainham and Purfleet and is open 24/7 to pedestrians, cyclists and dog walkers. Now this is a straightforward path, you either head one way or the other until you hit a dead end and are forced to turn around, but don’t worry, there are markers and sign posts along route to tell you exactly where you’re heading… I will mention a few things though: The riverside path offers great views of the entire reserve, as well as the QE2 bridge. As you carry on walking along the River Thames, you will eventually reach a smaller car park and beyond that is Veolia, Rainham Landfill site - all I can say is beware of lorries and the occasional smell resembling sulphur (it’s very rare). Other than that, you can still carry-on walking! As I mentioned before, the sign posts will continue to guide you. By continuing along the riverside path, you are sure to come across some amusing pieces of artistry, with what I can only describe as dad jokes. If you prefer to walk amongst more greenery, veer right instead, following the outskirts of the reserve.
GOOD TO KNOW
Location: RSPB Rainham Marshes, RM19 1SZ
Entrance Charges Apply: Check website, free entry to residents of Havering and Thurrock
Parking: Free (suggested £1 donation)
Facilities: Toilets with disabled access, Picnic areas, Café, Viewpoints, Play area, Nature trails, Binocular hire and much more!
Approximate trail time: 1 - 2 hours
Best time of year to visit: All year round
Accessibility: Wheelchair and pushchair friendly routes, separate cycle routes