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Delightful days out in London and Thames Valley this October Half Term

Friday 21st October 2022 09:14

Groups of people walk along a path at Walthamstow Wetlands

The Engine House at Walthamstow Wetlands.

Looking for activities this October Half Term? Fancy exploring Europe’s largest urban wetlands, seeing impressive steam engines in action, or just escaping to a peaceful nature reserve?

The UK’s largest water company is encouraging customers to ‘Live Wild’ and visit its amazing wildlife and recreational sites, many of which are free. 

With Autumn’s school holidays around the corner, Thames Water is promoting its public access sites including nature reserves and wetlands, fisheries and partner heritage sites and museums, to customers seeking new ideas for days out with family, friends and children. 

Kirsty Halford, access, recreation and nature reserves manager at Thames Water, said: “Not everyone knows about our fantastic nature reserves and wetlands that are free and open to the public throughout the year. They really offer something for everyone from fishing to wildlife spotting and nature walks. Our partners also run awe-inspiring heritage sites and museums that showcase the fascinating history of the water industry. If you’re looking for fun activities for your family and kids this Autumn, then our sites are just the place to enjoy a great day out.” 

Find out more about Thames Water’s wildlife sites, wetlands, fisheries, outdoor activities, and partner heritage sites by visiting Thames Water’s Great days out webpage. The company’s ‘Live Wild’ campaign highlights the great days out on customers’ doorsteps and the wellbeing benefits green outdoor spaces and wildlife bring to communities. 

In 2020, Thames Water worked with the London Wildlife Trust and London Borough of Waltham Forest, which runs Walthamstow Wetlands, to keep the site open. This meant over 650,000 Londoners could enjoy the fresh air and see the wildlife the site has to offer during the pandemic. 

From 2020 to 2025, Thames Water has committed to enhance biodiversity by 5% at 253 of its sites which have biodiversity interest. The area of land to be improved by the programme is around 4,000 hectares – two-and-a-half times the size of Heathrow Airport.  

Work has started and the company is improving the condition of existing habitats through changes in grassland management, and creating new habitats such as wetlands, woodlands and hedgerows.  

Thames Water manage 12 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which are legally protected wildlife areas, and with 47 of the UK’s 224 chalk streams in its region, the company is committed to protecting these rare and biodiverse sites.  

Thames Water's recreational sites: 

1) Crossness Nature Reserve

Located in Bexley, South East London, Crossness Nature Reserve offers the last remaining areas of grazing marshland within the Greater London area.

It hosts an impressive variety of rare species including water voles and England’s rarest bee, the shrill carder bee. 

Viewing screens overlooking the wet meadow, deep water lagoons and horse-grazed grasslands offer visitors the chance to watch barn owls, kestrels, and buzzards. 

The reserve regularly hosts a wide range of events and community open days and runs the Crossness membership scheme. Reserve members can access the site’s protected wildlife area, which has a two-storey bird hide. Find out more about the Crossness membership scheme

Further information

  • Cost of entry: Free to all users
  • Address: Pedestrian access via footpaths on Norman Road, Belvedere, DA17 6JY
  • Opening times: dawn to dusk, all year-round
  • Composting toilets in the protected area (accessible to members of the Friends of Crossness Nature Reserve scheme)
  • Crossness is a wetland site and frequently floods in winter. Paths are often wet and muddy so we suggest visitors wear wellies

2) Beckton Creekside Nature Reserve

Upstream of Crossness is Beckton Creekside Nature Reserve. The peaceful wildlife haven is a birder’s paradise with the curlew – one of Britain’s most endangered birds – being one of the 148 species of bird recorded to date at the site.

The reserve also offers activities for families with a mini-beast area and a bird feeding station. Grey and Harbour seals are also known to lounge on the banks of the River Roding where it joins the River Thames. 

Further information

  • Cost of entry: Free to all users
  •  Address: Pedestrian access from Jenkins Lane, Essex, IG11 0AD
  • Opening times: dawn to dusk, 365 days a year
  • Dogs must be kept on a lead
  • Beckton is accessible for buggies and wheelchairs

3) Walthamstow Wetlands and Walthamstow Fishery

Europe’s largest urban wetland is the perfect place to get away from it all. Walthamstow hosts a huge variety of wildlife, has plenty of activities for families and hosts London’s largest fishery. 

The 211-hectare nature reserve is made up of 10 drinking water reservoirs. The Thames Water operational site supplies more than 500 million litres of clean drinking water to 3.5 million people daily.

Dating back to the Dooms Day book, the site is run in by the London Wildlife Trust in partnership with the London Borough of Waltham Forest and Thames Water.  

Its facilities include a café, car parking, toilets, shop, visitor centre, bird hides and heritage buildings. The site also offers educational visits, family activities as well as accessible toilet and baby changing facilities.  

October Half Term events 2022- run by London Wildlife Trust

  • Tuesday 25 October 6:30 - 8:30pm: Guide to the Walthamstow Night Sky: An Introduction to Urban Stargazing, General Admission £18 plus booking fee.
  • Saturday 29 October 10:30am-3:30pm: Nature Nurtures: Wellbeing Walk (young people aged 16-25), Free

Further information

4) Woodberry Wetlands Nature Reserve

Just down the road in Hackney is Woodberry Wetlands, a 11-hectare wildlife oasis in the heart of London. 

Opened to the public in 2016, the accessible site is owned by Thames Water and managed by London Wildlife Trust. The nature reserve is free to visit every day of the week.

Woodberry Wetlands attracts a range of wildlife including five species of warbler, as well as siskins, fieldfares, swallows, and house martins.

Visitors walking around the beautiful site, can stop by the Grade II listed Coal House Café which has recently been restored to its original 1833 grandeur.

Further information

  • Cost of entry: Free to all users
  • Address: Woodberry Wetlands side entrance, Bethune Road, London, N16 5HQ
  • Opening times: 9am – 4.30pm
  • Guide and assistance dogs only
  • Wheelchair-accessible: level access into the reserve, with no steep gradients
  • Drinks and refreshments available at the Coal House Café (Closes at 4pm with last orders at 15:45
  • The best time to visit is between March and November.

5) Farmoor Reservoir 

Farmoor Reservoir in Oxfordshire is a Thames Water site which offers something for everyone, from unique wildlife habitats to a dream destination for anglers and sailors. 

The site has three nature reserves (Pinkhill, Shrike and Buckthorn meadows), each with its own bird hide offering a chance for visitors to see the local wildlife. 

Visitors to Farmoor can also make a pitstop at the Waterside Café, enjoy walks with easy access for wheelchairs and buggies or even try taster sessions at the Oxford sailing or paddleboard clubs.

Further information

  • Cost of entry to reservoir and natures reserves: Free to all users
  • Address: Farmoor Reservoir, Cumnor Road, Oxford, OX2 9NS
  • Opening times: 8am to 9pm in autumn
  • Dogs are only allowed on the countryside walk
  • Wheelchair and pushchair accessible route around the reservoir
  • There are nine toilet blocks including three with disabled access.
  • To be respectful to our neighbours when visiting our site, please only park in our main car park at Gate 3.
  • Farmoor partners with: Oxford Sailing ClubOxford Sail Training TrustOxford SUP Club (for stand-up paddle boarding) – The Oxford Ornithological Society

6) London Museum of Water and Steam

Immerse yourself in the story of London’s water supply, at Kew, on a fascinating journey through tunnels and walk-through sewers! Learn about why we need to pump water – and have a go yourself. 

There are some exciting new interactive exhibits, artefacts from the capital’s watery past and splashy fun in the Waterwheel Courtyard. Turning on the tap will never be the same again! 
The Museum and the café on site will be open everyday during October Half Term (Saturday 22 to Sunday 30 October). 

Further information 

  • Cost of entry: Adults £18.00; Concessions, 60+ and Students £16.00; Children Free; Carers Free
  • Address: London Museum of Water & Steam, Green Dragon Lane, Brentford, London, TW8 0EN