Ingrebourne Valley is the name used for a complex of nature reserves and publicly accessible land straddling the Ingrebourne River as it runs south from Hornchurch on its way to flowing into the Thames at Rainham Creek. The valley has a broad range of habitats (see below) and is an important site for a wide range of wildlife.[edit | edit source]

Entirely within the London Borough of Havering, the area is part of the Thames Chase Community Forest. The main site, west of the river, is Ingrebourne Valley Local Nature Reserve, which is owned and managed by the London Borough of Havering and has a visitor centre run by Essex Wildlife Trust. The major part of the LNR is Hornchurch Country Park, which covers 104.5 hectares (258 acres), but the LNR also includes further areas totalling 41.5 hectares (103 acres). Much or the valley north, east and south of the LNR is designated as a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation.

Running along both sides of the river is the Ingrebourne Marshes Site of Special Scientific Interest, a site of 74.8 hectares (184 acres), managed by Essex Wildlife Trust. Most of this site is closed to the public, but part can be viewed from the LNR.

Other areas that are open to the public include two sites owned by the Forestry Commission —  Ingrebourne Hill, a 44-hectare (108.7 acres) mound south of the LNR, and Berwick Glades (12 hectares, 30 acres), east of the river. Adjacent to the latter is Berwick Woods (25.2 hectares (72 acres), owned by Tarmac Southern Ltd and also publicly accessible.

Map (centred on Ingrebourne Valley visitor centre) here.

History[edit | edit source]

Ingrebourne Valley was once mainly farmland, and some farming still takes place. Early in the First World War some of the farmland was requisitioned for use by the Royal Flying Corps and became an important military Ωirfield. After the end of the war the land returned to agricultural use, but in 1922 it again became a military airfield as a base for the defence of London and the South East of England. The new airfield opened in 1928 and during World War II, RAF Hornchurch (as it was then called) was the base for three (sometimes more) Spitfire Squadrons, playing a major part in the Dunkirk evacuation and the Battle of Britain. 

After WWII the airfield became an RAF training centre, but in 1963 the site was sold, with the western part developed for housing and the eastern part used for gravel extraction. In 1980, following ground reinstatement of the eastern sector, and in-filling with rubbish, the London Borough of Havering carried out a massive landscaping project to create what is now Hornchurch CP. One section of the gravel diggings became Albyns Farm Lake, now a popular fishing spot. Reminders of the park’s military history can still be seen in the form of turrets, pillboxes, tunnels, trenches and gun emplacements.

Sites at the southern end of the valley also became sand and gravel quarries. In the 1980s, one former area of grazing pasture was used for quarrying and then restored by landfill to create a large mound some 22m high — the highest point in the area. In 2008, following a three-year restoration project, the Forestry Commission opened this site to the public as Ingrebourne Hill. Most recently an area on the side of the hill was excavated for aggregates and then infilled with rubble from Crossrail tunnels, with the hillside built up to give a gentler slope. The site has now been restored to grassland with small wooded copses. The development also included a wetland area, planted with willows, to prevent run-off and silt entering the river and the SSSI.

Habitat[edit | edit source]

Ingrebourne Valley has a wide range of habitats, including planted woodland, scrub, rough grassland, farmland, lakes and ponds, marshes, reedbeds and river. The site includes Greater London’s largest area of freshwater marsh, which is very diverse, with large areas of reed sweet-grass, common reed swamp, wet neutral grassland and tall fen. It also offers Greater London’s largest single area of floodplain grassland, its biggest continuous reed bed and, at Berwick Woods, its largest concentration of Willow Carr.

Species[edit | edit source]

Birds[edit | edit source]

Every year more than 100 species of birds are recorded in Ingrebourne Valley. Notable breeding birds include Hobby, Buzzard, Barn Owl and Yellowhammer. Breeding warblers include Cetti’s Warbler, Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler and possibly Grasshopper Warbler. Other nesting birds include Redshank and Lapwing, and there is also a small heronry. Red Kite are regularly seen over the valley.

A star bird in September 2017 was a Spotted Crake that spent several days close to the LNR viewing point.

Other vertebrates[edit | edit source]

The site supports an important population of Water Vole. Another mammal commonly seen is Weasel, which preys on the valley’s populations of Rabbit and small rodents (which include Harvest Mouse). In 2015, Hornchurch CP attracted international attention when amateur photographer Martin Le-May recorded an extraordinary image of a Weasel clinging to the back of a Green Woodpecker in flight. Reptiles include Grass Snake, Slow Worm and Common Lizard, while amphibians include Great Crested Newt.

Invertebrates[edit | edit source]

Invertebrates include two nationally rare Red Data Book species, the hoverfly Anasimyia interpuncta and the scarce Emerald Damselfly (Lestes dryas), plus other nationally scarce species of fly, beetle, dragonfly and cricket. Butterflies include thriving colonies of White-letter Hairstreak and Green Hairstreak. Clouded Yellow may also be seen.

Practicalities[edit | edit source]

Directions [edit | edit source]

Car — Hornchurch CP has a free car park near the visitor centre, off Squadron’s Approach (OS grid ref TQ536849) and another further north by the bridge on Hacton Lane (TQ548858). There is also a free Forestry Commission car park south of the CP at Ingrebourne Hill, off Rainham Road (TQ522830). For the eastern part of the site head for the free Berwick Woods car park off Berwick Pond Road (TQ543839).

Public transport — To reach Hornchurch CP by public transport, the best route is to take a District Line tube train to Hornchurch Station, then cross the road to Stop M and take a 252 bus to the Hornchurch Country Park stop (Stop A), where you will see the park on your left. If no 252 is due, catch a 256, which terminates one stop earlier. If you’d rather walk, it is exactly a mile from the station to the visitor centre — just turn right (south) out of the station and follow Suttons Lane.

For the eastern part of the site, catch a C2C train to Rainham (Essex) station (trains run every half hour daily from London Fenchurch Street). Leaving the station, walk up Ferry Lane, go left along Broadway to the clock tower. Turn right into Upminster Road and then left along a footpath next to Kings Fish Bar. Cross Viking Way to a small bus station in front of a Tesco Extra and catch bus 165 or 287 to Abbey Wood Lane. When you arrive, cross the grassy open space into Abbey Wood and over a wooden bridge to reach Berwick Woods and Berwick Glades.

Access[edit | edit source]

Most of the site is accessible on foot day and night. A viewpoint just south of the visitor centre offers good views of the reed beds and river.

Footpath routes include the Ingrebourne Valley Greenway (part of the London Loop), which is a wide, hardened pathway running for 4km (2.5 miles) from Hornchurch Stadium, north of Hacton Lane, to Albyns Farm in Hornchurch CP. The greenway is suitable for bicycles, buggies and wheelchairs.

There are also many informal pathways throughout the site, and the visitor centre can provide information about accessible routes around the reserve.


The visitor centre is open daily (except December 25 & 26) from 9am to 5pm (4pm in November, December and January). It has a cafe, shop, picnic facilities, toilets (including disabled toilet) and baby changing facilities. The food on offer in the cafe and shop is mainly snacks. For more substantial fare, try the [ Albion] pub (not far from Ingrebourne Hill car park), the [ Optimist Tavern] (near Hacton Lane car park) or the [ Berwick Tearoom] (close to Berwick Woods car park) — in each case, the pub or cafe is a short walk south of the car park.

Much of the information set out above has been cobbled together from various internet sources by Andrew Haynes, who has not visited Ingrebourne Valley in many years but thinks it deserves a detailed description on the London Bird Club Wiki. If you are familiar with the site, please correct, expand and/or update this information.

Species lists[edit | edit source]

Does anyone have a more recent species list for this site?

Species List 2008: Greenfinch, Redwing, Carrion Crow, Green Woodpecker, Magpie, House Sparrow, Black Headed Gull, Blue Tit, Collared Dove, Woodpigeon, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Robin, Dunnock, Cormorant, Teal, Mallard, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Grey Heron, Bullfinch, Mute Swan, Moorhen, Cetti's Warbler, Blackbird, Long-tailed Tit, Wren, Jay, Fieldfare, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Feral Pigeon, Starling, Rook, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Golden Plover, Stock Dove, Great Crested Grebe, Coot, Sparrowhawk, Tufted Duck, Pheasant, Song Thrush, Ring-necked Parakeet, Skylark, Kestrel, Canada Goose, Lapwing, Jackdaw, Kingfisher, Greylag Goose, Brambling, Water Rail, Goldfinch, Gadwall, Yellow-legged Gull, Shoveler, Great Black-backed Gull, Little Egret, Lesser Redpoll, Little Grebe, Stonechat, Goldcrest, Siskin, Chiffchaff, Green Sandpiper, Pochard, Common Gull, Mistle Thrush, Barn Owl, Linnet, Shelduck, Common Snipe, Sand Martin, Northern Wheatear, Blackcap, Red Kite, Common Buzzard, Willow Warbler, Reed Warbler, Swallow, Little Ringed Plover, Sedge Warbler, Marsh Harrier, House Martin, Red-legged Partridge, Garganey, Common Whitethroat, Redshank, Yellow Wagtail, Ringed Plover, Cuckoo, Hobby, Lesser Whitethroat, Nightingale, Garden Warbler, Swift, Common Tern, Coal Tit, Tree Sparrow, Peregrine Falcon, Woodcock, Bittern, Wigeon.

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