Wednesday 21st October 2020 08:00
The Engine House at Walthamstow Wetlands
Three years ago, London’s largest urban wetland nature reserve opened to the public for the first time, thanks to a £4.5 million grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Since then Walthamstow Wetlands, where people can relax and reconnect with nature, has been visited more than a million times.
Just 15 minutes from the heart of London, the reserve is free to visit and provides home and shelter to a wide range of wildlife, from rare waterfowl to birds of prey. This 211-hectare nature reserve is an international, European and nationally important reserve for waterfowl in the Lea Valley.
Visitors can walk or cycle along dedicated paths, try a spot of fishing, or just sit back and enjoy the scenery before grabbing some food and drink in the historic Engine House.
Walthamstow Wetlands is also a fully operational Thames Water site comprising 10 large reservoirs which provide water to 3.5 million people across the capital.
Its opening to the general public in October 2017 was, and still is, only possible due to a partnership between Thames Water, Waltham Forest Council and London Wildlife Trust, with funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Greater London Authority and others.
Kirsty Halford, Thames Water’s nature reserves manager, said: "We’re delighted so many people have been able to safely enjoy the wildlife and green space at Walthamstow Wetlands, particularly during this challenging and difficult time. We provide an essential service and, throughout lockdown, our engineers have continued working at this inner-city haven to keep our customers in supply.
“We’re proud to share the wetlands with residents and visitors from across London and we hope even more people will enjoy this site in the future. We care about the communities within which we all live and work, and this is a fantastic example of Thames Water working together with local partners to benefit the communities we serve and the natural environment.”
Since opening, London Wildlife Trust has engaged with the local community to deliver over 4,000 volunteering days with more than 300 registered volunteers supporting the Trust to deliver a broad programme of education, conservation, ecology and visitor engagement activities on site.
As part of this the Trust has welcomed over 5,000 school children to learn about the reserve’s habitats and heritage. Through guided tours, workshops and informal family learning activities reaching over 18,000 attendees, the Wetlands provides a way for people to engage meaningfully with this unique operational and ecologically important green space.
Leah McNally, director of strategic projects and engagement for London Wildlife Trust, said: “It’s fantastic to reach the milestone of the third anniversary of Walthamstow Wetlands opening and have an opportunity to celebrate all that has been achieved so far by the dedicated team of staff from across the partnership and our amazing volunteers.
“Over the past three years, the site has developed from being largely unknown to the public, to an important place for people to learn about their local area and wildlife, improve their wellbeing as well as helping wildlife to flourish.
“The diverse range of visitors we receive at the wetlands, whether it be for exercise, birdwatching, education or volunteering, is a testament to the huge value it holds for the community - it’s a real legacy for future generations of Londoners.”
Cllr Clare Coghill, leader of Waltham Forest Council, said: “It was a real pleasure to open Walthamstow Wetlands three years ago this week and share this wonderful urban oasis with the public for the first time.
“The wetlands are a vital sanctuary not only for the diverse wildlife in our region, but also for local residents and visitors from further afield as they seek to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. This has never been as important as it is right now as we continue to cope with the significant impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on our communities.
“I am extremely proud that working alongside our partners at the London Wildlife Trust and Thames Water we have been able to safeguard the future of this haven of tranquillity, only 15 minutes from central London.”
Stuart McLeod, Director London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “We are very pleased that thanks to National Lottery players so many people have visited Walthamstow Wetlands and experienced the benefits that spending time outdoors in nature can have on wellbeing.”