Mudflats of the River Thames. Rainham Marshes RSPB Reserve

Greater Thames

Greater Thames

Commercial shipping, intensive farming, six million people, heavy industry and power generation are not characteristics typically associated with ancient habitats, rare species and wildlife spectacles.

Yet on the doorstep of one of the world’s most well-known waterways, the Greater Thames Futurescape covers over 1,000km squared of marshland and mudflats.

Hundreds of thousands of wildfowl and wading birds depend on the area to survive each winter. In the summer, the marshlands are one of the last remaining strongholds in southern England’s for breeding redshanks and lapwings. There are rare insects like the scarce emerald dragonfly and it’s one of the best places in the country to come face-to-face with a water vole.


PDF, 3.02Mb. Date: 5 September 2014

Futurescapes - Greater Thames

Explore the area

Find out what’s going on near this Futurescape, including places to visit, news and local events, plus how you can work or volunteer for us. 

 Water vole Arvicola terrestris, sitting on bank of canal feeding, Derbyshire, England, April
Water vole

Nearby reserves

Reserves and other protected areas are a key part of Futurescapes. They provide core areas for nature to thrive and eventually repopulate the surrounding landscapes. The key RSPB reserves within this Futurescape are:

Landscape at dusk, Cliffe, Kent
Cliffe Pools

Featured projects

We're working to safeguard and improve special places for nature. Each Futurescape contains a range of initiatives in addition to our reserves. The combination of these creates better conditions for wildlife across the countryside.

Thames Estuary

Plans for an airport in the Thames Estuary are unsustainable and would threaten a world-class coastal wetland.

Wallasea Island Wild Coast Project

Four hundred years ago, the Essex coast was a wild and beautiful place, a haven for wildlife and a source of livelihood for local communities. Today however, less than a tenth of this wild coast remains.

View of sea defences, Wallasea Island RSPB reserve, Essex, England, January 2012
Wallace Island Wild Coast Project

Defending the Nature Directives

For the past 30 years, the EU Nature Directives have provided the highest level of protection for the area. 

But European leaders are now considering rolling back years of progress by watering down these vital laws. If this happened, important species and places within the Greater Thames region would be hit hard. 

Gill Moore, a spokesperson for the Friends of North Kent Marshes, explained that the marshes would not exist without the Nature Directives.

She said: "Our marshland landscapes inspired Charles Dickens to write Great Expectations, and hold a world-class natural heritage so important that it is protected under local, national and international law. The strongest of these laws are the Nature Directives, which protect our globally important wetlands from inappropriate and damaging development.

"These laws were instrumental in stopping an airport at Cliffe in 2003 and more recently in September 2014, when the UK Airports Commission ruled out building an airport anywhere in the Greater Thames Estuary or on the Hoo Peninsula. Any weakening of these laws could put our most important wildlife sites in peril. We must join together to fight any and all attempts to water them down."

Visit our Defend Nature page to find out the latest information on our campaign to prevent these laws from being weakened.  

Common seal Phoca vitulina, adult 'spy hopping', Kildonan, Isle of Arran, Scotland, May

Our partners

Futurescapes is all about collaboration. There are many organisations and people involved in managing land in the Greater Thames. Our challenge is working together to find ways of making more space for nature. To achieve this we’re working with: