Grid ref: TQ 766 833 (click for o/s map)
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Canvey Wick was once grazing marsh, then filled with river dredgings as the basis for an oil refinery that was never completed. Now it is Britain's first nature reserve specifically for insects. It supports more than 1,400 species, including national rarities such as the brown-banded carder bee.
Brownfield sites like this often have disturbed areas low in nutrients that are colonised by wild flowers and become ideal nesting and feeding areas for insects. Here, the combination of the original marshland, a variety of different materials from the dredging, plus the oil refinery infrastructure, has created a great diversity of habitats, from wet reedy patches through well-drained gravels to bare concrete.
As a result it has developed one of the richest populations of insects in the UK. The rarities are difficult to spot but marbled white butterflies are not, and there are lots of those about in July.
It also has spectacular displays of orchids as well as many other wild flowers. These include introduced plants like goat's rue, rosebay willowherb and everlasting sweet pea, alongside natives like birdsfoot trefoil and common centaury.
In the south-west corner of Canvey Island, between Northwick Road and Holehaven Creek. Arriving via Canvey Road (A130), turn right at roundabouts on to Roscommon Way and then Northwick Road. The entrance is 200m down on the left. SatNav: SS8 0PS.
About 2 miles' walk from Benfleet station via Ferry Road, Canvey Road, Roscommon Way and Northwick Road.
Reserve open daily from dawn to dusk; car park open from 9am – 5pm, or dusk if earlier.
Late spring through the summer for wild flowers (June for orchids) and for insects (July for marbled whites).
Some paths accessible for wheelchairs; kissing gates can be opened using a Radar key.
Please keep dogs on leads and take your dog waste home