In March I had a challenging week at work, partly because of Brexit and also because of worries about colleagues or their relatives being ill. I spent the whole week looking forward to walking at the weekend. I chose one of my favourite routes, along the Thames from Rainham to Purfleet in Essex.
The RSPB reserve at Rainham Marshes was one of the first places where I started taking an interest in birds. I remember going in my early birding days and finding a group of people gathered round a small rare bird. I think it was a Penduline Tit. It’s always been a welcoming place: birdwatchers there are a friendly group of people who are always willing to share their sightings. And the walk along that part of the Thames always feels reassuring. It’s a combination of familiarity and the potential for a surprise, such as a seal in the river. There‘s also plenty of history.
My walk started at the National Trust property of Rainham Hall, which has a rather good cafe in the stable block. The hall was built in 1729.
The walk from Rainham to the RSPB centre has been greatly improved. I usually take the longest version of the walk:
The Three Crowns pub used to be located by Rainham ferry but both are long since gone.
I once saw a Marsh Harrier near here:
This was my first sight of the Thames near where the ferry used to be:
Along the path there was a series of entertaining signs:
These concrete barges were apparently used as part of the Mulberry Harbours built to support the D-Day landings: They also carried fuel. In the winter they are a favourite roosting place for wading birds.
The reserve is home to large numbers of birds all year:
It’s a great place to see one of my favourite birds, the tiny Little Grebe:
On this particular day, I saw displaying Lapwing, with their remarkable tumbling flight, and a Common Snipe. This may have been the first time I’ve found a Snipe without assistance from fellow birdwatchers with telescopes.
I feel so comfortable at the reserve and by the Thames Estuary. No one can ever harm me here. Only good things happen. Life causes me so much anxiety but I’m always calm here.