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October half term days out with Thames Water

Thursday 19th October 2023 10:32

A child jumps in a puddle and a family walks in the background.

A child jumps in a puddle at Walthamstow Wetlands

Looking for last-minute 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 wildlife and recreational sites, many of which are free for visitors. 
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 all those 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 and the wellbeing benefits green outdoor spaces and wildlife bring to communities. 
Thames Water manages 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.  


Six sites to visit this Half-Term

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 entry
  • 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

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 entry
  • 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
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.  

Further information
Activities during October Half Term 2023 - run by the London Wildlife Trust
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 for all
  • Address: Woodberry Wetlands side entrance, Bethune Road, London, N16 5HQ
  • Opening times: October – March: 9:30am – 4pm, (last entry through the East gate at 3:30pm)
  • 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.

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.
For information
  • Cost of entry to reservoir and natures reserves: Free for all
  • Address: Farmoor Reservoir, Cumnor Road, Oxford, OX2 9NS
  • Opening times: 8am to 7:30pm in October
  • 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
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! 
After discovering all that history you can also visit the Pump and Grind Coffee Shop for refreshments
For information 
  • Opening Times: 10:00am – 4:00pm. Check London Museum of Water and Steam website for opening museum and café opening times and days during October Half Term. 
  • Cost of entry (day pass): Adults £11.50; Concessions £9.50; Children under 16 Free 
  • Address: London Museum of Water & Steam, Green Dragon Lane, Brentford, London, TW8 0EN