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London?s RSPB Flagship

Rainham Marshes accessible reserve opens

A huge area of wildlife-rich marshland on the border between London and Essex has been opened to the public for the first time in 100 years as an RSPB nature reserve. The site at Rainham Marshes, complete with a state-of-the-art Environment and Education Centre, will be officially opened on Monday, November 13.

Bill Oddie and Ruth Kelly, the Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government, will be there to herald the reserve as one of the first major green spaces in the Government’s Thames Gateway development.This will see 160,000 new homes in East London, south Essex and north Kent. They will form the lion’s share of the 200,000 homes the Government wants to see built by 2016 in its four “growth areas”. The RSPB hopes it new 353-hectare reserve will provide a foundation for the sustainable development of the Gateway, making it a healthy and attractive place to live in and to visit. Both the reserve and the centre have been designed to allow genuine access for all. The centre’s unique design combines uninterrupted views across the marshes with a range of cutting edge energy and water saving features.In time, thousands should be able to enjoy the peace and tranquility the new reserve offers and to see the wealth of wildlife that can be found there. Graham Wynne, RSPB Chief Executive, said: “The Thames Gateway is a fantastic area for wildlife. It is vital that the people, who live and work in the area, and those who visit, have access to its magnificent open spaces. If they do not, there is a real risk that the regeneration will fail to realise its full potential. The RSPB is working across the whole Gateway to deliver publicly accessible green spaces that bring benefits both to the wildlife that depend on these sites and to the communities that surround them. RSPB Rainham Marshes is the furthest advanced of our projects and we look forward to working with our partners on both sides of the river to help deliver a sustainable Thames Gateway that we can all be proud of.”Ruth Kelly, said:“The Thames Gateway is about much more than new jobs and homes, we also want to see quality green spaces like this fantastic RSPB centre for people to enjoy, high design standards for new homes and strong visible leadership. Later this month I will set out our commitment to a new network of parklands and our aim for the Gateway to become an exemplar for low and zero carbon development.”Bill Oddie, a long time supported of the project commented: "As a London based birdwatcher, Rainham Marshes was always something of a secret paradise and a place that I have enjoyed visiting over many years. I was pleased to be at the event to celebrate the RSPB's purchase of the Marshes and even more excited to be here on the day that sees RSPB Rainham Marshes fully opened up for all to enjoy. It's great to think that now everyone will be able to appreciate what a wonderful place it is."

The purchase and development of RSPB Rainham Marshes and the Purfleet Environment and Education Centre has only been made possible by the support of many organisation and individuals. We are particularly grateful to Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corporation, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Veolia ES Cleanaway Havering Riverside Trust.Will McKee, Chairman of the Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corporation said, "We are thrilled that the Corporation has helped to deliver a facility that will be a key regenerator for Purfleet, one of our five key economic hubs in the borough. The RSPB Rainham Marshes nature reserve and Visitor and Education Centre has an excellent fit with the Corporation's aim to regenerate Thurrock not only through new homes and jobs but by focusing on other key elements/objectives such as tourism, education and making the borough's open space accessible to all."

Doug Benjafield, Chairman of the Veolia ES Cleanaway Havering Riverside Trust, said: “The Veolia ES Cleanaway Havering Riverside Trust was one of the earliest supporting partners of the RSPB of the Rainham Marshes project. The Trust made a significant contribution to facilitate the original purchase of 870 acres of land on the Inner Thames marshes from the MoD, back in 2000. This expenditure secured the future of this environmental resource on the urban fringe, in perpetuity. Since then, the Trust has funded annual infrastructure work to facilitate public access and increase biodiversity, with a total contribution of over £1.1 million to date. I’m delighted to be here on the day this magnificent new Environment and Education Centre is opened to the public”Robyn Llewellyn, Heritage Lottery Fund Manager in the East of England, said: “Rainham Marshes is such a wonderful breathing space for people across Thurrock and beyond; a haven for wildlife that is full of history and now open for everyone to enjoy. Celebrating our past will be so important as the Thames Gateway area undergoes further development. Exploring our roots helps to create a sense of place, identity and local pride that form the foundations for any growing community.”Rainham Marshes sit alongside the River Thames, just inside the M25 and within sight of the Dartford Crossing. This ancient marshland landscape has survived on the urban fringes thanks to the Ministry of Defence, which used the area as a firing range until the 1990s. The RSPB acquired the site in 2000. Since then they have worked to develop the area as a nature reserve where local people and visitors to the area can enjoy the amazing range of wildlife found on the Marshes.

The site is a haven for wildlife. In the summer wading birds such as lapwings and redshanks breed on the marshes. In the winter, the reserve is home to important numbers of wintering ducks, wading birds, finches and birds of prey. Wintering flocks can number more than 7,000 birds. As well as the birds, there is a range of scarce wetland plants and insects to be found. There is also a strong population of water voles, which has the unenviable title of ‘fastest declining mammal in the UK’. The RSPB owns nearly 20 square kilometres of land in the Thames Gateway at Rainham, in South Essex and North Kent. This makes it the largest NGO landowner in the Gateway.

4th July 2014