In the second part of this four-part article, I continue by listing the other two of my top three sites in London which meet criteria that makes them especially suitable for wildlife tourists, especially for branding and promoting London as a wildlife destination. London has many sites managed as nature reserves, but this four-part article series focuses on those that are best suited for visiting birders and wildlife photographers. It is best to read the first part for context if you have not done so already. In this second part, I also provide information on two of my top London wildlife sites and in part 3 I include other useful details for those who wish to enjoy London’s biodiversity.
RSPB Rainham Marshes
The RSPB Rainham Marshes reserve is within a hundred metres of the River Thames. The River Thames is very wide here and telescopes are used by visitors to look at Seals which may be basking on the far shore. The reserve comprises a series of waterbodies fringed with reedbeds and areas of managed grassland. One of the closest reserves to London where visitors in Summer are greeted by singing Skylarks. The reedbeds are alive to the songs of Reed Warblers in Spring. There are patches of woodland which are good for warblers and other passerines. The grassland is used by Redshanks and Lapwings for breeding. In winter, good numbers of waterfowl arrive. It is one of the best places in the UK to see and photograph Water Voles.
Entry: Admission charge for non RSPB members. Car park and reserve trails are open 9.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. from 1 November to 31 January and 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. from 1 February to 31 October; closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Visitor Facilities: Car parking and toilets. A well-equipped café with a choice of food. Hot meals and a selection of hot and cold drinks. The cafe overlooks the reserve from a small height-a terrific location. Birders use a balcony area to look onto the Thames River side for an occasional Seal and even Skuas.
Getting there: Trains leave from Fenchurch Street station which is in the eastern part of Central London and very much in the heart of London’s old financial district. Take a train to Purfleet (which is the stop after Rainham). Exit the Purfleet Station and turn right onto the main road (going over a railway crossing). Follow the signs to the Thames Towpath and follow the river heading west. You can see city buildings in Canary Wharf in the distance. The visitor centre in an unusual building is about a 15 minutes walk.
On Saturdays there are two direct trains an hour and it is easy to get to. On Sundays you have to take a train from Fenchurch Street to Barking and change trains. Unless it is easy for you to connect up from Barking (on the District Line of the London Underground), it may be easier to visit one of the other locations in London on a Sunday.
RSPB Rye Meads
The RSPB Rye Meads reserve comprises a number of waterbodies with extensive areas of reedbeds. The hides are well positioned for photographing waterbirds throughout the year. A good site for Water Voles. The walking paths are lined with scrub and trees and a mix of woodland birds is also present.
Access: Generally, the reserve is open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (or dusk if earlier). Closed Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Free entry. Small car parking charge to non RSPB members.
Facilities: Car parking and toilets. A tiny café area with some hot and cold drinks. Limited selection of food, mainly snacks. Advisable to bring your own packed lunch.
Getting there: Trains leave from Liverpool Street station which is in the eastern part of Central London and in the north-eastern border of London’s old financial district. Two trains an hour on Saturdays and Sundays to Rye House. Exit the station and turn right. The reserve is about a 5 minutes plus walk. Very easy to get to.
Extra Tip: From Liverpool Street Station it is a short walk to the very trendy Shoreditch area with its bars and cafes. Spitalfields Market and the adjoining Brick Lane are interesting market areas.
Read also Part Three