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Walthamstow Wetlands – dubbed ‘London’s best-kept secret’ – opens to public today after £10.6m investment

20 October

It’s hard to believe that wildlife can thrive only 15 minutes from central London. Walthamstow Wetlands is Europe’s largest urban wetland nature reserve, a 211-hectare site that combines a nature reserve with an operational reservoir complex.

Called ‘London’s best-kept secret’ by the Mayor of London in 2012, Walthamstow Wetlands is the result of ten years of planning, renewal, conservation work and investment, including a £4.47m National Lottery grant. Now, one of London’s most important wildlife sites has been transformed into an easily accessible space for all.

It’s only 15 minutes by tube from central London. Although London-based backpackers and hillwalkers will still need to travel further than that to get their fix, it’s hard to ignore the benefits of a quick escape to tranquillity and nature.

Ten reservoirs comprise the site, which is an internationally important refuge for waterbirds such as pochard, shoveler and gadwall and an important stopover for migrating birds flying north and south each year. A designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Walthamstow Wetlands is also home to the largest heronry in London and is a place where thousands of different wildlife species can be seen and enjoyed, from kingfishers to the peregrine falcon. The Wetlands boast London’s largest commercial fishery and accommodate fish such as trout, carp, roach, tench and perch.

Stuart Hobley, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund London, said: “This project not only protects the site’s nationally important biodiversity, but also showcases a great testament to Victorian engineering in the Walthamstow Reservoirs, which date back to 1863. Thanks to National Lottery players, Londoners will be able to experience the broad range of fascinating heritage on their doorstep in a beautiful setting.”

The Wetlands will be fully accessible to families, walkers, wildlife fans, anglers and birders from 20 October. A calendar of weekly activities, as well as seasonal events, will take place throughout the year. London Wildlife Trust will deliver a programme of interactive learning, volunteering and school engagement to create future custodians of the site.