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A new urban wetland reserve for London

Walthamstow Wetlands ©Rachel Smith

Opened in October 2017, Walthamstow Wetlands is unique in terms of its’ size and urban context.  Ian Tokelove from the London Wildlife Trust, introduces this new reserve…

Walthamstow Wetlands is a ground breaking, urban wetland reserve that recently opened to the wider public, just 15 minutes from central London. Created around ten operational Thames Water reservoirs, this is the largest urban wetland reserve in Europe, openly accessible and free to visit.

Walthamstow Wetlands ©Penny Dixie

Photo credit ©Penny Dixie

The reservoirs are nationally and internationally recognised as significant for wildlife, particularly overwintering wildfowl. The 211 hectare site is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), on account of its national importance to migratory and wintering waterbirds, particularly shoveler, bittern and gadwall – alongside breeding grey heron, cormorant and tufted duck.

Alongside their SSSI status, the reservoirs are entirely within a Special Protection Area (SPA) and are also a Ramsar site, indicating the international importance of the site – perhaps even more so given the reserve’s urban context.

Walthamstow Wetlands ©Greg Morgan

Photo credit ©Greg Morgan

As well as waterfowl, the Wetlands support a wide range of other wildlife, with peregrine falcon and kingfisher regularly spotted. During the warmer months, grass snakes bask in the sun while dragonflies and damselflies dart through the reedbeds.

Walthamstow Wetlands is a partnership project between London Borough of Waltham Forest, Thames Water, and London Wildlife Trust, created with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and other partners.

Alongside habitat and wildlife conservation, a beautiful restored Victorian Engine House now features a fully accessible Visitor Centre and café. Towering above the restored building, a unique swift tower awaits nesting swifts and roosting bats. Another renovated building, the Grade II-listed Coppermill Tower, offers sweeping views across the Wetlands and of the wider capital.

Walthamstow Wetlands ©Nadia Ward

Photo credit ©Nadia Ward

London Wildlife Trust works with a dedicated team of volunteers to protect and conserve wildlife habitats across the Wetlands – providing opportunities for people to get closer to nature. The Trust also runs events, guided walks and activities for visitors. Meanwhile, Thames Water staff keep the reservoirs running smoothly, providing clean water for 1.5 million people.

Walthamstow Wetlands is open seven days a week between 9.30am to 4pm (October to March) and 9.30am to 5pm (April to September). Entrance is free, but parking is limited. The Wetlands are just a seven-minute walk from Tottenham Hale station (Victoria line tube) and a ten-minute walk from Blackhorse Road Station (Victoria line tube and Overground line).

To find out more, visit

Header Image: Walthamstow Wetlands ©Rachel Smith 

About the Author: Ian Tokelove is Communications Manager at London Wildlife Trust, the only charity dedicated to protecting wildlife across all of Greater London. The Trust is one of 47 Wildlife Trusts working across the UK, conserving wildlife and important habitats, and connecting local people to nature on their doorsteps, enabling them to take action for nature where they live. The Wildlife Trusts believe that everyone can make a positive difference to their local environment – whether schools, councils, farmers, businesses or individuals – and that by working together we can achieve nature’s recovery on land and at sea, and bring people closer to wildlife.