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Walthamstow Wetlands

In the Lee Valley a cluster of reservoirs have been transformed into Europe’s largest urban wetland reserve.

Walthamstow Wetlands is a 211-hectare site comprising ten reservoirs that provide drinking water for London and which are internationally recognised for their importance for migrating birds – particularly overwintering wildfowl.

Marine Engine House (credit James Cracknell)The Victorian-era Engine House hosts a fully-accessible visitor centre with café, shop, interactive displays, viewing platform, toilets, and art installations. In addition a unique 'swift tower' has been built, in the shape of the original chimney, to house nesting swifts and roosting bats.

Walthamstow Wetlands contains a range of habitats and experiences, from sheltered dense scrub-lined banks to wide windswept views towards the city. It remains the largest fishery in London. Entry is free.

 

Species you can see at Walthamstow Wetlands

Great Crested Grebe (credit Matthew Rich)Amphibians: Common frog, common toad

Birds: Mallard, coot, grey heron, tufted duck, little egret, cormorant, moorhen, kingfisher, great crested grebe, pochard, shoveler, greylag goose, gadwall, swift, shelduck, peregrine falcon, long-tailed tit, curlew, snipe, mute swan

Fish: Brown trout, rainbow trout, bream, barbel, perch, chub, common carp, pike

Invertebrates: Comma butterfly, common hawker, white-tailed bumblebee, hawkmoth

Mammals: Hedgehog, soprano pipistrelle bat

Plants: Marsh-marigold, common club-rush, lesser bulrush, whorled water-milfoil, great hairy willowherb, bee orchid, common knapweed, bullrush, goat willow, purple loosestrife

 

History of Walthamstow Wetlands

The site's ten reservoirs were built by the East London Waterworks over a 70-year period, growing in scale and height as the needs of London grew. The water bodies are a mix of statutory (raised) reservoirs and non-statutory (ground) reservoirs.

The two Victorian buildings on the southern site, the locally-listed Engine House pumping station and the Grade II-listed Coppermill, are relics of the reservoirs' evolution. Mills have existed on the Coppermill Stream since at least 1066, producing gunpowder, linseed oil and of course, copper. The Engine House, built 1894, is a beautiful example of Victorian architecture that once housed the site's pumping station, powered by a marine steam engine.

Closed to the general public since they were first constructed 150 years ago, the reservoirs were opened in October 2017 thanks to a £10.6million partnership project between landowners Thames Water, grant holders Waltham Forest Council, and conservation delivery partners London Wildlife Trust, with support from Heritage Lottery Fund and other partners.

 

Management of Walthamstow Wetlands

A dedicated volunteering team help maintain reedbeds, grassland and hedgerows through regular conservation workdays. A programme of wildlife monitoring and surveys is also undertaken.

The Walthamstow Wetlands project has already helped enrich existing habitats as well as create entirely new ones. New reedbeds have been created in the low-lying reservoirs to support wildfowl populations and attract rare birds such as bittern. Trees have been planted and new meadows and grasslands are being created while bat boxes, bird nest boxes, and bird feeding stations, are being installed.

Volunteering opportunities exist for people of all abilities. For more information please email Nadia Ward at nward@wildlondon.org.uk or visit wildlondon.org.uk/volunteer-with-us

 

Reedbeds at Walthamstow Wetlands (credit James Cracknell)

Our role at Walthamstow Wetlands

The Trust works at Walthamstow Wetlands in partnership with other organisations. Our role includes conservationoutdoor learning, and volunteering. The London Borough of Waltham Forest runs the Engine House, its shop and cafe, and car park. Thames Water is the site owner responsible for operating the reservoirs and issuing fishing permits. For more information please go to walthamstowwetlands.com

 

Facilities at Walthamstow Wetlands

The Engine House provides a café, toilets, viewing platform, shop, and education space. It is fully accessible. There are wayfinding displays at each of the three entrances. The Coppermill is not yet open to the public. A cycle path links the northern and southern entrances to the site.

 

How to get to Walthamstow Wetlands

There are three entrances. The main entrance is in Ferry Lane/Forest Road, a ten-minute walk from Tottenham Hale and Blackhorse Road stations (Victoria line) and served by buses 123 and 230. There is also a visitors' car park. The other entrances are at Lockwood Way, off Blackhorse Lane, and Coppermill Lane, next to Walthamstow Marshes.

 

Accessibility at Walthamstow Wetlands

The visitor centre is fully accessible, although inclement weather may affect the accessibility of some footpaths that are not paved or gravelled. 

 

Status of Walthamstow Wetlands

Includes the Walthamstow Reservoirs Site of Special Scientific Interest. Part of the Lee Valley Special Protection Area, Ramsar site of international importance, and Lee Valley nr Walthamstow Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation.

Wildfowl including gadwall, shoveler, tufted duck, bittern, grey heron, and cormorant, have been key to the site obtaining these designations.

 

Visiting Walthamstow Wetlands

To ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience at Walthamstow Wetlands, please observe the below terms and conditions for all visitors:

  • The reservoirs supply drinking water to 3.5 million people every day. Thames Water staff on site will do their best to keep out of the way of visitors, but they have an important job to do. This has to take priority and they need your understanding and co-operation as they go about their work.
  • Paddling, swimming, diving, and boating, is banned at all reservoirs. The water is deep and extremely cold just below the surface, even in summer. There are hidden dangers, including strong currents caused by the need to pump water around, and the banks are steep and slippery. Keep away from the water at all times.
  • Dogs are not allowed on site, with the exception of assistance dogs on duty. Wildlife can easily get frightened.
  • Visitors are asked to help avoid disturbing wildlife by keeping to the paths and defined tracks. Do not throw stones into the reservoirs, allow children to chase after wildlife, or feed the birds - bread is not good for them.
  • Walthamstow Wetlands is the largest recreational fishery in London and a special site for anglers, who pay for use of the platforms. To avoid accidents from anglers casting their leads or flies, we need to ask all visitors to be aware of their surroundings and keep a safe distance.
  • Cyclists and joggers are welcome but must stay on designated paths. Most visitors are pedestrians, taking their time to walk round the site, and their needs have priority.
  • Even the smallest piece of litter can harm wildlife. Please take everything home with you.
  • Barbecues or open fires are not permitted at any time, anywhere on the site.
  • Smoking is prohibited in all buildings.
  • Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
  • No alcohol may be brought on to the site.
  • Parts of the site may need to be closed at any time. This could be when machinery is in use, or to protect nesting birds. Please stay on the marked paths and look out for signs. 

Nearby nature reserves

Woodberry Wetlands
2 miles - London Wildlife Trust
Camley Street Natural Park
5 miles - London Wildlife Trust
Oak Hill Wood
6 miles - London Wildlife Trust

Nature reserve map

Reserve information

Location
Walthamstow Wetlands, 2 Forest Road
Walthamstow
London
N17 9NH
Great for...
birdwatching
Best time to visit
Mar - Jul
Sep - Jan
Get directions
Find out here
Public transport
Plan your journey
Opening Times
9.30am-4pm, every day except Christmas Day and Boxing Day
Facilities
Cafe
Gift shop
Visitor centre
Toilets
Disabled toilet
Baby changing
Size
211.00 hectares
Status
Ramsar
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Special Protection Areas (SPA)
Living Landscape schemes
Lee Valley Living Landscape
Access
Yes

Parking
A car park for visitors is provided at the Ferry Lane entrance. There is a charge.
Dogs
Guide dogs only
Reserve manager
Tel: 020 7261 0447
walthamstow@wildlondon.org.uk