One of very few ancient landscapes remaining in London, these medieval marshes right next to the River Thames were closed to the public for over 100 years and used as a military firing range.
We managed to acquire the site in 2000 and set about transforming it into an important place for nature and a great place for people to visit. Now you can expect to see breeding wading birds in spring and summer, and large flocks of wild ducks in winter.
Birds of prey and rare birds are regularly seen too. There are also water voles in the ditches and rare dragonflies flit across the boardwalks.
There is an innovative visitor centre, with huge picture-windows that look out across the marshes. It is full of environmentally friendly features and already boasts a handful of prestigious architectural awards.
There is also a shop and café and a new wildlife garden and children’s adventure play area too. A full events programme offers something for everyone, and while we still have several years to go to finish all the visitor features out on the reserve, it is already an incredible transformation. Boardwalks throughout the reserve give access for wheelchairs and pushchairs.
From 1 November to 31 January, we’re open from 9.30 am – 4.30 pm. From 1 February to 31 October, it’s 9.30 am – 5 pm. We’re closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Car park: voluntary £1 donation. Reserve: Free to RSPB members and residents of Havering and Thurrock. Non-members: £3 adult, £1.50 child, £9 family (two adults and up to four children). There are extra costs for some events – please check when you book.
If you are new to birdwatching…
Birds are easy to see year round. The reserve runs a number of regular events for birdwatchers throughout the year, from novice to expert, including weekly Wednesday guided birding walk with Howard Vaughan, dawn chorus walks, winter spectacle birding event, a new birdwatching club for children, February’s flock bird event and spring walks. There are also designated open days and weekends. Please see the events pages for further information.
Information for families
There is an evolving events and walks programme specially designed for families, with activities for all. All the reserve’s paths and boardwalks are family and wheelchair friendly. There are also Adventure and Toddler’s Playgrounds.
Information for dog owners
No dogs allowed, except registered assistance dogs. However, dogs are allowed on the Thames riverside path – a public footpath and cycleway running adjacent to the reserve.
Our star species are some of the most interesting birds you may see on your visit to the reserve.
The delicate forms and and piping ‘kluit’ calls of avocets are becoming a more and more frequent site at Rainham throughout the year.
Lapwings from different places visit Rainham Marshes during the year. Wintering birds are replaced by breeding birds in spring and other birds that have bred further north pass through in summer and autumn.
Little egrets can now be seen here in large numbers right throughout the year. Dispersing juvenile birds lead to a sudden rise in numbers in late summer and autumn.
The large concentrations of wildfowl and waders regularly attract hunting peregrines – especially in autumn and winter.
These neatly banded waders can be seen performing their ‘run and stop’ feeding routine here.
Each season brings a different experience at our nature reserves. In spring, the air is filled with birdsong as they compete to establish territories and attract a mate. In summer, look out for young birds making their first venture into the outside world. Autumn brings large movements of migrating birds – some heading south to a warmer climate, others seeking refuge in the UK from the cold Arctic winter. In winter, look out for large flocks of birds gathering to feed, or flying at dusk to form large roosts to keep warm.
Wheatears, stonechats, oystercatchers, hobbies, curlews, swifts, sand martins, house martins, warblers, marsh harriers, reed buntings, water and short-tailed voles, damselflies, marsh frogs, grass snakes, water shrews.
Black-tailed godwits, whimbrels, greenshanks, snipe, little egrets, dunlins, lapwings, teals, swifts, common sandpipers, ruffs, starlings, avocets, yellow wagtails, oystercatchers, yellow-legged gulls, bank and water voles, water shrews, marsh frogs, wasp spiders, red foxes.
Marsh harriers, arctic terns, bearded tits, thrushes, finches, skylarks, meadow pipits, jackdaws, stonechats, hen harriers, goshawks, merlins, peregrines, short-eared owls, barn owls, avocets, black-tailed godwits, white fronted geese, pintails, wigeons, crickets, butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies, stoats, weasels, red foxes.
Bullfinches, ringed plovers, oystercatchers, golden plovers, water and rock pipits, little egrets, snipe, chiffchaffs, curlews, lapwings, dunlins, redshanks, shelducks, peregrines, kingfishers, short-eared owls, red foxes, stoats, weasels.
Group bookings accepted
Guided walks available
Good for walking
Currently two bird hides, family orientated Marshland Discovery Zone and several open viewing areas.
There are a network of nature trails currently in place, which are utilised for specific guided walks and events. There are approximately 2.5 miles plus of nature boardwalks, all designed for wheelchair and pushchair access.
The shop stocks:
Binoculars and telescopes
The Education team offer a comprehensive and exciting array of curriculum linked field study visits for all school levels. We have Woodland, Reedbed and Marshland Discovery Zones, an Environment and Education centre, fully equipped classrooms, specific study areas, pond dipping areas and lots more. It’s a safe and inspiring environment to get close to nature. A selection of lifelong learning courses on a variety of topics are run throughout the year, along with a range of children’s activities, including holiday clubs. Please contact us for further details.
Our cafe gives magnificent views not only over the ancient wildlife-filled grazing marsh, but also across Old Father Thames which flows majestically past the window. It is the perfect place to relax after exploring our nature trails or as a respite stop after the hustle and bustle of shopping nearby.
We serve our own exclusive coffee that is grown, imported and roasted by us. It’s Fairtrade, organic and certified bird-friendly by the Smithsonian Institute, so now you can help save nature simply by enjoying a great cup of coffee!
Whether you are after a refreshing cuppa and a slice of our fabulous home-made cake, or a filling sandwich, panini or jacket potato, you will find something to tickle your taste buds. We look forward to seeing you soon!
From 1 November-31 March, we’re open from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm. From 1 April-31 October it’s 9.30 am to 5 pm. We’re closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Highlights from our menu:-
Fabulous home-made cakes
Freshly-prepared jacket potatoes with a variety of fillings
Locally-baked pies and pasties
Made-to-order toasties, paninis and sandwiches
Lovely cafe with warming soup and fantastic cake. Yummy!
Access to the cafe
The cafe is fully wheelchair-friendly.
We’re happy to serve smaller portions and we can also warm baby food in the microwave.
We use local ingredients
All produce is sourced locally where possible, including ham, bacon, sausages, soup and pies.
Jacket potatoes, sandwiches etc all have veggie options, as well as a veggie pastry. We have vegan meals. The soup and jacket potatoes are wheat-free; some gluten-free cakes are available.
8 August 2013
This is a Summary Access Statement. A full access statement is available to download from the webpage.
Before you visit
Clear print site leaflet available from our reserve reception
Free entry for RSPB members, residents of Havering and Thurrock. For other visitors admission charges apply. Carer or essential companion admitted free with disabled visitor
No dogs. Registered Assistance dogs only
Visitor Centre, car park and reserve trails are open 9.30 am to 4.30 pm from 1 November-31 March and 9.30 am to 5 pm from 1 April-31 October; closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day
Check accessibility for events and activities.
How to get here
Purfleet Railway Station is a 15 minute walk to reserve
Bus stops near the reserve entrance.
110 spaces and seven Blue Badge spaces
Gates locked at 5 pm
Surface is loose gravel
No formal drop-off point
No height restrictions.
Visitor centre and shop
Ground floor shop, slight slope to heavy door with 10 mm lip, normally open. Assistance bell. Non-slip tiles. Reasonable lighting. Some display units tall or deep. Pen and paper available. Bird seed bins are outside the shop.
The visitor centre and cafe are on first floor, accessed by a long ramp left of Blue Badge parking. Entry by two sets of double heavy doors opening outwards. No threshold. NOTE JUNE 2012, power assistance is out of order so an alternative bell is provided.
Step-free, level access throughout and non-slip tiles. Lowered counter section. Good lighting. Pen and paper available. Binocular hire. Staff available to assist.
Three signposted trails, a mix of flat gravel surface paths and boardwalks. Information boards in large print. Trails start at the visitor centre across a short section of non slip grill with a short steep section. You can leave the reserve part way round and along the River Thames. Use the one way turnstile or gate (Gate key code available from reception)
Four hides on the circular walk. None on the Woodland walk. All level entry either adapted for wheelchair spaces or designed for everyone to gain the same great views. Marshland Discovery Zone has touch interpretation. Shooting Butts Hide has 14 stairs and a lift.
Toilets and baby changing facilities
Accessible toilet on ground and first floors (Baby changing in first floor)
Café on first floor. Good lighting. Non slip tile flooring. Self-service. Menus are clear print. Staff available to assist.
Eleven tables with wheelchair spaces, on soft and hard surfaces, level ground behind visitor centre. Alternatively, a table in the adventure playground and toddler’s play area. Visitors are welcome to consume their own food and drink here.
Education team offer a wide and exciting array of curriculum linked field study visits at our Environment and Education centre, fully equipped classrooms, specific study areas, pond dipping areas.
Help us improve accessibility by sending feedback to the Site Manager.
For more information
How to get here
The nearest railway station to this reserve is Purfleet. Purfleet train station is on the C2C line from Fenchurch Street. The reserve is a 15 minute walk from the station following the brown pedestrian signs along the riverside path. Turn right out of the station and then join the path at the Royal Pub. Follow the Riverside path and then cross the Mardyke Bridge to the Visitor Centre.
The ensignbus 44 bus route which runs between Lakeside and Orsett Hospital, Grays, stops near the reserve entrance on New Tank Hill Road. This bus runs every hour and up to 30 minutes during peak periods. The service is operated by Ensignbus (01708 865656).
The reserve is located off New Tank Hill Road (A1090) in Purfleet which is just off the A1306 between Rainham and Lakeside. This is accessible from the Aveley, Wennington and Purfleet junction off the A13 and J30/31 of the M25.
Cycling at Rainham Marshes
RSPB Rainham Marshes is just a stone’s throw from London, easily accessible by public transport, on foot and by bike. Located on ancient marshland nestled beside the river Thames, it really is a special place to enjoy the great outdoors.
The reserve itself offers a leisurely amble in a superb setting with fantastic facilities such as an award-winning, eco-friendly visitor centre with cafe and shop.
If cycling is your thing, a brand new cycle route links the villages of Purfleet and Rainham. This runs beside the reserve, following the Thames, looping round and passing the stone barges.
Both on the reserve and along the riverside path, you will see a variety of interesting, sometimes rare, birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians as well as bugs and beasties of all kinds. You will also be able to learn so much of the history and importance of this area.
Our work here
Rainham Marshes protects an ancient, low-lying grazing marsh in the Thames Estuary. Its complex of wet grassland and ditches, together with rank grassland and scrub, supports many breeding and wintering birds.
Wildlife also includes scarce wetland plants and insects, and a key population of the nationally declining water vole.
The site has a history of neglect, but the RSPB is working to restore important habitats and improve their biodiversity. This will transform a former wasteland into an important natural asset, and help raise public awareness of local conservation issues.
Managing the marsh
Birdlife on the marsh includes breeding waders, such as lapwing, redshank and snipe, as well as important numbers of wintering wildfowl, waders, finches and birds of prey.
We plan to enhance the habitat for these birds by creating a mosaic of unflooded tussocky grassland, flooded short grassland and semi-permanent pools. This will also benefit important plant species, such as golden dock.
Meanwhile we will improve the ditch system for the benefit of water voles, reptiles and amphibians, invertebrates and breeding birds.
Leaving well alone
We will leave the areas of tall rank grass and scattered scrub unmanaged in order to retain their existing conservation value. Wildlife in these habitats includes small mammals, reptiles and invertebrates, and birds such as wintering short-eared owls and breeding stonechats.
We will also look after sandy areas for their specialist insect life.
Lagoons on the reserves are currently used for commercial silt dredging. We will work around this in order re-create and maintain a complex of brackish lagoons and reed-swamp for important wildlife, including breeding, wintering and passage waterfowl.
While some lagoons will remain operational, we will manage others rotationally and keep the rest permanently open.
Access for all
We aim to make the site accessible to everyone, without impinging on the dredging operation or compromising our conservation priorities. We will develop and promote the reserve as a major visitor attraction and centre for environmental education. We aim to encourage interest in local and general conservation, and create a broader understanding of the work of the RSPB.
Current work is being funded by the EU’s Interreg IVA Two Seas Cross-border Cooperation Programme 2007-2013, Homes and Communities Agency’s Parklands Funding administered by Essex County Council, and Biffa Award and Veolia Cleanaway Havering Riverside Trust, both through the Landfill Communities Fund.
Thanks to help on the reserve from employees of Goldman Sachs, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC, Earthwatch, Barclays, Royal Mail, Family Mosaic, Ipsos Media we have been able to deliver more for wildlife and people at Rainham Marshes.