371ac/150ha LNR, SSSI (part)
Grid ref: TQ 535 848 (click for o/s map)
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This Local Nature Reserve (LNR) consists of Hornchurch Country Park and parts of the adjoining Ingrebourne Marshes SSSI, plus land adjoining the Ingrebourne both upstream and downstream.
Hornchurch Country Park was created in the early 1980s mainly on the site of an abandoned airfield, RAF Hornchurch. The airfield was first developed during World War I and 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. Thousands of trees have been planted and are creating an attractive landscape.
For wildlife, the highlight is the Ingrebourne Marshes SSSI, a fine wetland next to the old airfield and further downstream alongside the River Ingrebourne. To protect it, Havering Council has raised water levels and reintroduced grazing. 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 and bearded tits, and occasionally bittern, in 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.
The London Loop long-distance footpath runs all the way down the valley to the Thames a mile or so to the south, at present diverting into South Hornchurch but planned eventually to follow the river all the way.
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.
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.