Ingrebourne Valley LNR
371ac/150ha LNR, SSSI (part)
Grid ref: TQ 535 848 (click for o/s map)
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This Local Nature Reserve consists of Hornchurch Country Park and parts of the adjoining Ingrebourne Marshes SSSI, plus land adjoining the River Ingrebourne upstream.
Hornchurch Country Park was created in the early 1980s mainly on the site of an abandoned airfield, RAF Hornchurch. During World War II squadrons of Spitfires were based here that played a part in the Battle of Britain. Remnants of the airfield are still visible in the form of pillboxes and tett turrets.
For wildlife, the highlight is the Ingrebourne Marshes SSSI, a fine wetland next to the old airfield and further downstream alongside the River Ingrebourne. A wetland on this scale – with a huge reedbed alongside marsh and flood meadow – is very unusual anywhere, and especially so close to London.
Redshank, lapwing and yellow wagtail breed on this kind of wet tussocky grassland. Kingfishers make their nest holes in the steep banks of the river. Many sedge and reed warblers nest here, and also cetti's warblers, one of our few resident warbler species. Water rails can occasionally be seen prowling around in the tall vegetation.
Our smallest duck, the teal, overwinters on the ponds, snipe in the rough grassland, and bearded tits, and occasionally bittern, in the reedbeds. Barn owls can often be seen hunting over the open grassland and marsh harriers over the reedbeds.
With such a variety of wet and dry habitats the area is valuable for insects too. Banded demoiselles can be seen all the way down the river and it also supports several rarities, including the brown-banded carder bee.
The whole area is a stronghold for amphibians and reptiles, including marsh frogs that have arrived recently.
The visitor centre near the Squadrons Approach entrance is run by Essex Wildlife Trust and offers fine views across the marshes
Main entrance on Squadrons Approach off Suttons Lane, about 2km south of Hornchurch town centre (reached from Upminster or Dagenham via the A124) via Station Lane. SatNav: RM12 6TS.
About 1km walk down Suttons Lane from Hornchurch station (District Line tube). Frequent bus services run to both entrance roads from Rainham, Hornchurch and Romford.
The park is accessible at all times; car parks open daylight hours only.
May–June for breeding birds; July–August for dragonflies and butterflies; migration periods for unusual birds sheltering in the marshes or plantations.
About 4 miles of surfaced paths suitable for wheelchairs and buggies.
Park Office phone 01708 554451.