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Nature reserves remain open for fresh air and exercise

Friday 20th March 2020 12:00

A family at Walthamstow Wetlands

Thames Water’s free nature reserves and public spaces remain open for people to get fresh air and exercise during the coronavirus outbreak.

Walthamstow Wetlands in London and Farmoor Reservoir near Oxford are just two of the water company’s picturesque sites where people can get out of the house and enjoy the countryside.

Alongside social distancing, rangers and staff are washing their hands regularly and using surgical gloves when opening and closing gates.

Richard Aylard, Thames Water’s sustainability director, said: “We understand the current situation is very difficult for many people, so we’re aiming to keep all our public spaces open to help them relax and recharge, while following the government’s social distancing guidance. They are great places to keep fit, breathe fresh air and enjoy nature.”

Walthamstow is Europe’s largest urban wetlands nature reserve. Owned by Thames Water and run in partnership with Waltham Forest Council and London Wildlife Trust, it features 10 reservoirs and is popular with walkers, bird watchers and anglers. It is located just 15 minutes from the centre of London and opens between 9.30am and 4pm seven days a week.

The site has attracted more than 700,000 visitors since opening two years ago and was recently named the Best UK and Ireland Tourism Project by the British Guild of Travel Writers.

Walthamstow Wetlands is free to enter although car parking charges apply. For the latest updates visit

Surrounded by beautiful countryside with woodland views, Farmoor Reservoir, pictured above, is just a few minutes’ drive from the A34 on the edge of Oxford.

It includes three award-winning wetland nature reserves, a four-mile countryside walk – dogs welcome on a lead – and a wheelchair-accessible wetland trail. The site is also one of the top birdwatching venues in Oxfordshire, attracting many rare species, including ospreys and red-throated divers.

To ensure social distancing, only two customers are allowed into the shop at any one time. Visitors are also being asked to use contactless payments instead of cash. For anglers the weighing room has been closed and there will be no need to fill in a catch return.

The site is free to visit and car parking charges have been suspended. For more details visit the Farmoor Reservoir website here.

Elsewhere people can take a stroll along Thames Water’s famous Shakespearean aqueduct. The New River was built more than 400 years ago to supply water to London, and still provides eight per cent of the water the capital needs. The 25-mile footpath starts in Hertford and meanders through rural, urban and industrial areas, passing through Woodberry Wetlands in Stoke Newington, before ending at New River Head in Islington.

Thames Water’s other nature reserves at Hogsmill in Kingston, and Crossness and Kempton, both in London, also remain open.