Over the next few weeks I shall periodically be posting a short little history piece about the reserve. The site is steeped in history, some of it very old so watch out for more updates.
In the beginning
Rainham’s landscape has not always been dominated by open marshes, and the area has undergone some fascinating transformations over thousands of years. Its geomorphological history started with the build-up of silty glacial deposits overlying the Eocene marine London clays and gravels up to about 13,000 BC. After this, the cold, treeless steppe and tundra habitat was replaced with a covering of birch and pine. However, from 6,000 BC sea levels rose and during the Mesolithic and Neolithic epochs, spanning 8,000-2,000 BC, the site saw two periods of inundation, each followed by dense forestation.
If you visit the reserve at low tide you can see the remains of the Neolithic forest protruding through the silty mud of the River Thames. The Thames was way to the south when these trees were growing here. Similar stumps can be seen on the other side of the river at Erith and periodically we unearth large pieces of this anearobically (no air) preserved wood from ditches out on the marsh.
One of the in-situ piece of wood on the foreshore - complete with Herring Gulls!
The Rainham area has been occupied by man since the Palaeolithic (35,000-10,000BC), with hand tools found in the nearby Aveley shingle terraces, and there is evidence of Bronze and Iron Age (2,200 BC to 43 AD) habitation and Roman occupation (43-140 AD) nearby.