Hornchurch contains the largest continuous area of freshwater reed bed in London which is designated as The Ingrebourne Marshes Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Ingrebourne Marshes with cattle grazing (Photograph by Les Harrison)
The site is home to water voles and a fantastic diversity of birds including waders such as redshank and lapwing. You might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a hobby flying high above with the swifts in summer, a water rail skulking in the reed beds or even the vivid blue flash of a kingfisher. In spring and summer listen out for the manic warbles of a sedge warbler or the explosive sound of the Cetti's warbler. Throughout the winter ducks such as gadwall, teal and pochard are in residence at the marshes, escaping the colder winters of the far north.
Grey Heron (Photograph by Les Harrison)
Next to The Marshes and also part of the Local Nature Reserve is Hornchurch Country Park which has a fascinating legacy of past use as a key airfield during both world wars. You can see many of the Airfield's remaining features along the Eastern Pathway, starting at the Squadrons Approach Car Park, including aircraft dispersal bays, gun emplacements, tech-turrets and pillboxes. The Ingrebourne Valley Local Nature Reserve also has links with other publicly accessible sites including Berwick Glades and Ingrebourne Hill owned by the Forestry Commission and Berwick Woods owned by Tarmac Construction.
Special plants and animals
Extensive reed beds and wet grassland, golden dock, scarce emerald damselfly, redshank, reedbunting, lapwing, yellow wagtail, tufted duck, reed warbler, sedge warbler, cuckoo.
The Ingrebourne Valley Greenway - a 4km hardened pathway suitable for bicycles, pushchairs and wheelchairs running through the site from Hornchurch Stadium, north of Hacton Lane, to Albyns Farm in Hornchurch Country Park. There are also a number of informal pathways throughout the site.
Two main car parks off Hacton Way and Squadron's Approach. Parking is free of charge.
Hornchurch Ranger Service. Tel: 01708 554451.
Ingrebourne Valley Community Development Officer. Tel: 01708 432959.
Ingrebourne Valley Project Manager. Tel: 01708 432874.