Two year anniversary

Two year anniversary

Two years since opening its gates for the very first time to the general public, Walthamstow Wetlands has welcomed over 700,000 visitors. Providing a vast and tranquil space to experience the Great Outdoors, discover rare and resident wildlife on London’s doorstep and learn how 30 per cent of the city’s drinking water is delivered, Europe’s largest urban wetland nature reserve has proved a popular destination for local residents as well as visitors from further afield. The site’s importance as both a haven for wildlife, especially overwintering and migratory birds, as well as a place of respite for people of all ages and interests has been recognised with Walthamstow Wetlands winning the ‘Culture and Heritage Award’ at the London Planning Awards 2019 as well as ‘Best UK and Ireland Tourism Project’ at the British Guild of Travel Writers Awards 2019. In addition, the site has also recently been awarded the Learning Outside the Classroom Quality Badge.

Barn Croft School

Barn Croft School tree planting session at Walthamstow Wetlands

Walthamstow Wetlands is a partnership project between London Wildlife Trust, Thames Water and the London Borough of Waltham Forest. London Wildlife Trust has worked to effectively manage wildlife populations and the diverse habitats onsite with the aim of increasing biodiversity at Walthamstow Wetlands, one of only 37 designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest in Greater London. London Wildlife Trust staff have delivered 161 conservation workdays with local volunteers, who have contributed a phenomenal 3,699 hours to the site. Activities have included bramble removal, cutting and planting meadows, weaving fences, removing invasive species, planting trees and coppicing the woodlands. In addition, London Wildlife Trust have hosted 166 employees from the Investors in Wildlife scheme - businesses who support the Trust's work and engage in conservation workdays through the year. Staff and volunteers have also replaced a derelict 20-year-old bird hide with a brand new one for visitors to observe birds on Reservoir 3. This new Richard Woolley Bird Hide has hosted regular ‘Guide in a Hide’ sessions with dedicated volunteers sharing their expansive birding knowledge with passers-by.

In addition, London Wildlife Trust staff have been running weekly guided walks focussing on the site’s internationally and nationally important populations of shoveler, gadwall, tufted duck, grey heron and cormorant to name but a few, as well as briefing visitors on the heritage of the site which includes 10 reservoirs built between 1863 and 1904. London Wildlife Trust ecologists alongside volunteers have also undertaken various surveys to observe wildlife numbers and behaviour – as a result of the site’s first reptile survey, a mating pair of grass snakes was recorded and several more individuals were found across the site whilst a water vole was spotted using the reedbeds during a later summer survey. As part of the continued conservation efforts, bird ringing demonstrations have also taken place throughout the two years including a recent demonstration where 208 passerines, including a possible goldcrest/firecrest hybrid thought to be one of only four found with this hybridisation, were recorded.

New Richard Woolley Bird Hide

New Richard Woolley Bird Hide at Walthamstow Wetlands

Walthamstow Wetlands has hosted over 30 weddings since opening as well as a number of events and activities ranging from urban birding workshops, talks on the global importance of wetlands and literary workshops to wildlife drawing workshops, Tai Chi sessions and London Borough of Culture events. These events have been designed to give visitors an unforgettable experience getting close to nature. Furthermore, the Wetlands has teamed up with the Waltham Forest Social Prescribing team and the Adult Learning Service (WFALS) to host a series of workshops taking a more holistic approach to people’s health and wellbeing in the local community. The workshops have encouraged residents – many of whom had never visited the Wetlands – to work constructively together on projects and learn new skills. The last year has also seen Thames Water and the London Borough of Waltham Forest partner with Nordoff Robbins - the largest independent music therapy charity in the UK – to host weekly free music therapy sessions which support vulnerable and isolated people develop their own ways of being musical in order to connect with the world around them.

Walthamstow Wetlands offers an abundance of learning resources including interactive screens and a touchstones trail whilst London Wildlife Trust has delivered an extensive programme of education – since opening 4,162 school children have visited to take part in interactive, hands-on education sessions, 4,943 children have enjoyed the under-5 sessions, 2,728 children have taken part in free holiday activities and 5,232 children have participated in the weekend drop-in sessions. As part of the site’s family activities, London Wildlife Trust have also been running regular Forest School sessions offering children opportunities to develop confidence through practical learning experiences in the outdoors.

The unique nature of the site and the dedicated partnership, staff and volunteers have enabled more and more people to experience the wonders of the natural world and in doing so, appreciate its vital role in a future for all. With many exciting plans and projects in the pipeline, including the creation of a new habitat in the form of a bog as well as the installations of more and more floating islands and tern rafts on the reservoirs, Walthamstow Wetlands promises to continue providing a valuable resource for both wildlife and people alike.

Floristry Workshop at Walthamstow Wetlands

Floristry Workshop at Walthamstow Wetlands

Interfaith Week at Walthamstow Wetlands

Interfaith Week at Walthamstow Wetlands

Cllr Clare Coghill, Leader of Waltham Forest Council, said: “Two years ago, I was honoured to open Walthamstow Wetlands to the public. Since then, thousands of people have been able to enjoy this natural oasis and see wildlife including the fastest animal on the planet, the peregrine falcon. By working with our partners Thames Water, London Wildlife Trust and the Heritage Lottery Fund we have been able to introduce young people to the environment and teach them how important our green places are for us all.”

Kirsty Halford, Community Projects Executive at Thames Water, said: “We’re delighted that so many people have been able to enjoy the Wetlands. They provide a picturesque home to many different species of wildlife, all while continuing to operate as a working site, providing 30 per cent of London’s drinking water. It’s especially encouraging to see so many people taking part in conservation projects which will preserve this wildlife for generations to come.”

Gordon Scorer, CEO of London Wildlife Trust, said: “Walthamstow Wetlands is a special place for both wildlife and people in London. It has been fantastic to see so many local people get involved in volunteering with London Wildlife Trust on so many different aspects of the nature reserve from volunteering on practical conservation tasks, assisting with outdoor learning sessions to helping visitors experience wildlife on their doorsteps in London.”