This walk is best done in autumn or winter. It is not a countryside walk and, although the scenery has some industrial units dotted about, the route to the reserve is evocative and atmospheric with fine views across the river Thames and the marshes. There are good bird-watching opportunities along the path by the Thames particularly if the tide is in. The medieval marshes of Rainham, Wennington and Aveley are one of the very few ancient landscapes remaining in London. The marshes were formerly a Ministry of Defence firing range and you will see evidence of this when you walk round the RSPB reserve.
Along the riverside path to the reserve there are some abandoned landing craft used in the 1944 “D” Day Normandy landings. Near the craft you will also see “the Diver”, a large public work of art designed by the sculptor John Kaufman (1941-2002) who was inspired by the stories told to him by his grandfather who worked as a diver in the London Docks at the turn of the 19th/20th century .
At the end of the riverside path by the Royal Hotel at Purfleet you can look back and see all of London’s modern iconic buildings (the Shard, the Gherkin, Canary Wharf) lined up on the horizon.
The RSPB Reserve at Rainham Marshes has an excellent visitor centre, with a café, shop and toilet facilities and superb “picture window” views across the marshes and the Thames. As well as a wide diversity of bird life the reserve has one of the highest densities of water voles in the UK.
If you are a resident of either the London Borough of Havering or Thurrock or a member of the RSPB then entry to the reserve is free. For all others there is a £3 entry charge.
If you can’t face any more muddy autumn or winter walks then this is a pleasant alternative and even if you are not a bird watcher it is an interesting and worthwhile day out.