Saturday the 2nd of February, late afternoon, quite cold, the light is starting to fail, and I’m on the northern boardwalk, part way round locking all the hides.

I always find time out on the reserve is a time to reflect on how the reserve and its habitats have developed, and also to think about our future plans for helping these habitats thrive even more. I start thinking about current proposals that we are developing for the marshes at the very western end of the reserve, off Ferry Lane South. We want to create a network of scrapes and re-profiled ditches here, to benefit breeding waders, reed bunting, water vole and dragonflies – not dissimilar to the work we completed on Wennington Marsh only a few short years ago.

Sadly, some might argue, it’s not a simple case of arranging a digger to come and ‘just get on with it’. These works will require planning permission, an Environmental Permit from the Environment Agency, and consent from Natural England for works on the SSSI. All of these important and necessary safeguards will require various and numerous bits of supporting information and maps and diagrams.

My mind was starting to plan how we will navigate our way through this maze of consents and permissions, to ensure we have everything in place so that, hopefully, work can commence in the coming autumn.

I was so engrossed in this train of thought, that I nearly didn’t notice it.

First the movement that I saw made me assume it was a reed bunting on the boardwalk, then a long tail made me briefly think a small rodent of some sort, and then it turned, and I tuned in properly to what I was seeing, and it was a superb male bearded tit. Carefully and delicately gleaning seeds from fallen reed heads that were on the boardwalk. I stopped in my tracks. And it carried on feeding, just 10 yards ahead of me. That warm and perfect buff colouration, tiny short wings protruding, its long tail, and that wonderful grey head with its drooping black moustaches. Immaculate. I looked around for anybody to share the experience with, but the boardwalk was deserted, except for me and the bearded tit.


(Lisa Harber)

It let me watch it for nearly ten minutes. It then jumped into the reeds, and once I’d walked passed, it then jumped straight back out on to the boardwalk and carried on feeding, allowing me to complete the circuit.


(Mark Vale)

It was a timely reminder of how superbly distracting and satisfying nature is, how it is capable of making us feel good, and why we do what we do here at Rainham Marshes, and why the effort to secure those consents will be worth it, when we get them.