BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Sci/Tech
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"It took twenty years of campaigning to get it"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 11 July, 2000, 23:02 GMT 00:02 UK
Birdlovers buy London marshes
cows on marshes before butts
From firing range to wildlife reserve (Photo: Andrew Hay)
By environment correspondent Alex Kirby

Twenty years of effort by conservationists campaigning to save a wild area near London from development have finally been crowned with success.

The land, Rainham Marshes, lies on the north bank of the river Thames, 19 kilometres (12 miles) downstream from central London.

The marshes have now been bought by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, for just over a million pounds.

The remains of a medieval marshland system, the site has been sold by the Ministry of Defence, which used it as a rifle range for almost a century.

lapwing on ground
Lapwings depend on the marshes
It is still littered with unexploded ordnance including hand grenades and mortars. The ministry will take another 15 years to clear the site completely.

A spokesman said most of it would be open to visitors very soon, but fairly small sections would have to remain out of bounds until the clearing-up was over.

The RSPB says the marshes are the last and largest undeveloped piece of land close to London. They form part of the Inner Thames Marsh site of special scientific interest, the highest category of wildlife site conservation.

Graham Wynne, the RSPB's chief executive, said: "Rainham will be one of London's greatest treasures for wildlife.

"Preserved as a time capsule by its military past, the area has provided a haven for several nationally threatened bird species, including lapwing, redshank and corn bunting."

Threat lifted

Other residents include water voles, hares and damselflies, which have enjoyed protection from disturbance because of the marshes' military use.

Since 1945, 60% of the grazing marshes along the Thames have been lost, leaving Rainham as the largest block on the river's inner reaches.

vole on stream bank
There are water voles at Rainham (Photo: The Wildlife Trusts)
Much of the site which the RSPB has bought had been intended for development, until the local authority, Havering borough council, reprieved it. A small part of the marshes still faces the same fate.

The new mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, who had promised in his mayoral manifesto to protect the marshes, said he was "delighted that this wonderful place is to be saved for people to enjoy. Ordinary Londoners have campaigned long and hard for this result.

"One of my early decisions as mayor has been to adopt the series of sites of nature conservation importance as a firm basis for my biodiversity strategy.

"Rainham Marshes is a top-grade site in this series. But my campaign is not over. The western edge of the marshes is still not safe from the threat of development, and I will not be happy until the whole place is safe."

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

21 Apr 00 | London Mayor
On the stump: Darren Johnson
07 Feb 00 | Sci/Tech
Mixed fortunes for UK birds
24 Sep 99 | Sci/Tech
Lapwing numbers halved in decade
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Sci/Tech stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Sci/Tech stories