The transformation of 10 existing reservoirs on the borders of Waltham Forest and Haringay into an urban wetland nature reserve (“Walthamstow Wetlands”:http://www.walthamstow-wetlands.org.uk) is a huge £10m project funded largely by the Heritage Lottery Fund supported by smaller donations from others.
Although the project’s not due for completion until 2017, free, two-hour, guided tours are offered and we took up the opportunity on an unseasonably sunny October Sunday morning.
Steve, our guide, was excellent: able to project his voice to the group of 30+, knowledgeable and interesting.
We were told that the 211-hectare site is one of the largest in Europe – similar wetlands in Barnes, South London are a quarter of the size and have an entry fee of £10. Walthamstow Wetlands will be free – a huge plus.
It’s an urban wetland as a train line runs through it and in the distance you can see buildings all around including the distinctive Ally Pally. There’s a number of huge electricity pylons on the site and until you stand under them, you don’t appreciate their size. Steve told us that rather than just being an ugly monstrosity, they attract birds, like the peregrine falcon who like to roost on them. The bushes and scrub surrounding the pylons also attract birds who certainly aren’t put off as a tiny and very tame robin flew around us as we stood underneath.
The original Victorian Engine House is being turned into a visitors’ centre and café and the tower rebuilt in such a way that it will attract bats inside and swallows and swifts on the outside.
New entrances will be constructed and we walked along part of the 1.7km concrete path which will link two of them. This will be the only part that people can cycle on and dogs will not be allowed (as their smell affects the wildlife).
Reed beds have been planted and are growing profusely and are already attracting wildfowl including herons and egrets.
Walking around, there are lots of ‘swims’ for fishermen as the reservoirs constitute the largest fishery in London and Steve explained it will continue to attract anglers. It will also continue to be an operational water supply for Thames Water.
Our visit took place on the day the “Telegraph”:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/property/house-prices/the-next-hot-london-boroughs-where-and-when-will-average-house-p/ featured Waltham Forest as one of the seven new borough’s where the average house price will reach half a million by 2020. We left the Walthamstow Wetlands feeling pleased we live in such and up and coming borough and very excited at this new development virtually on our doorstep (ok, a ten-minute bus ride).