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18 July 2011
Image: Graham Catley
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.
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.
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.
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.