Work to transform Thames Water’s Walthamstow Reservoirs into a public wetlands reached a significant milestone last month when the roof of a brand new swift nesting tower was lifted into place.
The £8.7million project will open Walthamstow Reservoirs to the public, providing free access to the 211 hectare Wetlands for residents and visitors to enjoy. When complete this autumn it will be one of the largest urban wetland nature reserves in Europe, while still providing 500 million litres of water a day for around 1.5 million people across north London.
The 24-metre swift tower replaces an industrial chimney, demolished in the 1950s, and includes 54 specially installed swift nest boxes to attract urban swifts as well as a snug roost for bats. It has been built on top of the locally listed Victorian Engine House which was built in 1894 and is also undergoing a transformation as part of the wetlands project. It will become a visitor centre with a café, exhibition and events space, education room, and viewing terrace. Meanwhile a viewing platform is under construction in the Grade II listed Coppermill Tower, which will offer stunning views over the reservoirs and across London.
Richard Aylard, Director of External Affairs and Sustainability at Thames Water said: “It’s exciting that we’re going to be able to share such a wonderful space with the public, while still using it to supply water to so many people across north London. With the developments to the engine house and the tower, the transformation is really taking shape and it’s great to see the project progressing so well.”
Gordon Scorer, Chief Executive of London Wildlife Trust said: “It’s fantastic to see the new swift tower rising some 24m into the sky, providing multi-storey accommodation for the swifts that migrate here every year from Africa. These amazing birds can spend up to 10 months on the wing, never touching ground while feeding on insects, mating and even sleeping in the air. Numbers have been declining dramatically, so it’s really important for us to provide a safe place for them to nest and raise their young when they reach the Wetlands – and the Swift Tower should do the job nicely.”
Waltham Forest Council is leading the transformation project in partnership with Thames Water, who own and manage the site, and London Wildlife Trust, who will deliver the operational phase through an extensive programme of learning and community engagement, including conservation and site volunteering.
Cllr Clare Coghill, Cabinet Member for Economic Growth and High Streets said: “The excitement is building now and we are looking forward to opening up the Wetlands so that everyone can enjoy the stunning wildlife and industrial heritage that exists on the site.”
Walthamstow Wetlands is highly important for biodiversity, and in particular a wide range of bird life. Because of its bird populations, Walthamstow Wetlands is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Protection Area (SPA) of local, national and international importance.
The Wetlands are home to lots of wildlife including dragonflies, nocturnal bats and peregrine falcons – the fastest bird on earth, capable of reaching speeds of 200mph.