I can’t say Walthamstow without my family laughing because, for some reason, I get it mixed up with Stoke Newington. So it’s not surprising that they thought it was a joke when I told them that, after a £10.6m investment, Europe’s largest urban wetland reserve is ready to open to the public – and it is in Walthamstow!
Like a lot of North Londoners, I was vaguely aware of this area of reservoirs and open land in the Lee valley, between Walthamstow and Tottenham, a few miles north of the Olympic Park, owned by Thames Water. However, it has always had an air of mystery hanging over it as a bit of a secret spot, visited by a few initiates with a permit to fish or bird watch.
The reservoirs are still operational, with Thames Water supplying 3.5m households from here. But from 20 October, the 211-hectare site, with 13 miles of footpath and cycle track between 10 reservoirs, eight islands, and London’s largest heronry, will be open to the public daily from dawn to dusk – thanks to development funds from London Wildlife Trust, Waltham Forest council, Thames Water and the Heritage lottery fund.
At the main gate, on Ferry Lane, an 1885 building that housed the steam-driven pump engine is now a visitor centre with cafe, shop and exhibition space. From its viewing platform, you can look down on swans gliding along the pretty Coppermill stream.
Further down the stream is the rather older Coppermill Tower which is also now open to the public offering great views over towards Canary Wharf. There has been a mill on this site since at least 1086 (it’s in the Domesday Book), producing paper and gunpowder as well as copper.
All in all this looks like an amazing place. And it is free. And just up the road from us. Aren’t we lucky!
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