Things To Do For Free in Essex: The Chase Nature Reserve

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It’s been a while since I added to my Things To Do For Free In… series, and this one, we actually went and did for free back in March. Seriously, where has time gone? I kept meaning to write about The Chase Nature Reserve, but it just kept getting pushed to the bottom of my to-do list!

Over the years, I’ve driven past a sign for The Chase (in Dagenham, Essex) so many times, and kept saying “we must go there one day” and finally, we did!

The Chase Local Nature Reserve covers 48.5 hectares and offers a diverse mix of habitats. Shallow wetlands, woodland, grassland and the River Rom support an abundance of wildlife.

The Chase borders the Eastbrookend and Beam Valley Country Parks together forming a regionally important area for wildlife.





Looking back at my photographs, it was a very sunny and clear day – most unusual for March, and we made the most of it by walking around the reserve. We walked around Bardag Lake which was popular with those who love fishing. I read on the Bardag Angling Association website that this lake is stocked with carp, tench, perch, bream, roach, rudd and pike. There are several other lakes across the reserve too.


Me being me, has found out some interesting information about The Chase, and it makes me all the more keen for us to go back again very soon. It’s the sort of place you’d have to just sit and wildlife watch – we “only” saw geese, coots, swans and ducks!

That said…I don’t know what this bird is…maybe some sort or heron?


Birds receive the most attention at this regionally important area for wildlife with over 190 species recorded in the last 50 years.

Kingfishers, skylark, little ringed plover and lapwing all breed here but The Chase is best known for its rare visitors during the migration periods such as pine bunting, great snipe and spotted crake.

Other animals include water voles, great crested newts, slow worms and badgers.

The Chase has a number of important plants. The easiest of these to spot is the Black Poplar tree. The site contains 6 of only 600 female trees left in the United Kingdom. Other notable plants include spiny restharrow, warty cabbage and black mustard.


 Look at the size of that duck!!!!!!






The reserve is divided into a wooded narrow strip along the River Rom north of the road called The Chase, and a large more open area with lakes to the south. The wooded strip east of the River Rom, which is in Havering, is crossed by a footpath between Roneo Corner, opposite Rom Valley Way, to The Chase (road). A footpath from Dagenham Road to The Chase (road) goes through the area on the west bank. The southern area is bordered on the west by Eastbrookend Country Park, and is linked by a footbridge over a railway line to Beam Valley Country Park to the south.

The Chase is accessible by car, with a car park available off Dagenham Road. You can reach it by the London Underground on the District Line at Dagenham Heathway and getting the 174 bus to Farmhouse Tavern. You can walk to nature reserve from Dagenham East underground station (also on the District Line.

The nature reserve is accessible every day of the year from sunrise until dusk.

Access points consist of either squeeze barriers or stiles but there is no formal path network across the site. The Chase Local Nature Reserve is not accessible by wheelchair.



There is so much wide open space, so perfect to spend the day with your family and friends. Take a picnic and enjoy being out in nature. It was a sunny, but a little chilly when we went, but it’s definitely on our summer to-do list if the weather holds out!

The Millenium Centre which was at the entrance that we started our walk, is the visitor centre which is open throughout the year and has toilets and baby changing facilities.


There is so much wildlife to see – insects, butterflies, birds, plants, flowers and animals. I’m really looking forward to spending some quality time here at some stage and seeking some of the them out (and of course, take photographs) we did see some insects though, and I managed to get a couple of photos of a butterfly fluttering around. And we saw quite a few different plants too. I imagine there must be even more now during the summer months.






I know that this post is photo heavy extreme, but only a few more now!

We all had our favourite parts of the nature reserve – we all loved the huge lake, and the wide open spaces. And as much as I love all things nature, I also love the juxtaposition of the city beyond, with its high rise tower block! We are so lucky around where we live to have a lot of green space nestled amongst the towns, roads and buildings! It gives that perfect haven to escape to…





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