Silent lapwing


At Easter we visited the RSPB reserve at Rainham Marshes. We had a lovely time wandering around the reserve and enjoyed sharing the experience with our baby.

When a nappy needed changing we were able to do it in a hide, out of the changeable weather system we were experiencing.

One of the lovely reasons to visit a bird reserve is the kindness of staff, volunteers and other visitors. Everyone was willing to share their knowledge when we asked something. And some people shared their telescopes and binoculars so we could see the birds that were far beyond our sight.

Our best spots with the naked eye were little grebes and lapwings. We commemorated the visit by buying our baby a toy lapwing, although we soon discovered that its tufts can be pulled out and eaten by a baby! The best thing about this lapwing is that you give it a squeeze and it sings its song. The worst thing about our lapwing is that its song didn’t past very long ans a couple of weeks ago it went silent. We hadn’t even squeezed it very much. Baby’s mother thinks I was over-enthusiastic. She might be right. The problem is that we can’t access the voicebox as it is sown inside. So now we have a silent lapwing.

The staff in the cafe were lovely though the food was distinctly average at best. Next time we will take our own food.

When we first entered and paid at reception, we were made to feel like second or third class citizens for not being RSPB members. But this was just one person, everyone else was kind and helpful.

Having spent some time in the morning wandering around and sheltering now and then from the Easter snow, in the afternoon we did a whole circuit of the reserve. Some of the odder features come from the marshes former use as a military training ground. There’s an old ammunition store and walls used for target practice, for example.

Rainham Marshes is right by a railway so every so often you can see Eurostars and High Speed 1 trains.

When we were in the cafe we benefited from overhearing birdwatchers and staff talking about birds as well as letting us know what was out there on the reserve. They also have feeders close to the cafe so that you can sit and watch birds closer by too.

There’s a shop within the cafe that sells binoculars and a few bits and pieces but we later discovered the main shop (where we bought the lapwing) is underneath the cafe. If you come by car it would be the first thing you see but if you come on foot you could be oblivious to it, so if you do want to buy something, do go downstairs.

Getting there: Rainham Marshes are accessible from London by taking a C2C train to Purfleet, which is within Oystercard territory. From the station head west, then get yourself alongside the river and follow the path to the reserve. The route is also part of the London Loop walkway.

Cost: Free to RSPB members and to residents of Havering and Thurrock; £3 per adult and £1.50 per child for the rest of us. A family ticket costs £9 and covers 2 adults and up to 4 children.


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