Huge new nature reserve opens in London

The Walthamstow Wetlands teem with bird life all year round

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Europe’s largest urban wetland nature reserve is now open to the public – and it’s only 15 minutes from central London by tube.

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At a whopping 520 acres, it’s half as big again as Hyde Park, and dwarfs the 100 acres of the successful London Wetland Centre in Barnes, which opened in 2000.

Like the London Wetland Centre, The Walthamstow Wetlands comprises a series of Victorian reservoirs. They’ve opened thanks to a £10.6 million investment from the London Borough of Waltham Forest, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Thames Water.

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They must be around here somewhere…

What can you see?

For outdoor lovers, the big pull of these wetlands is of course the birds. The wetlands lie in London’s Lea valley – an important stopping-off point for migrating and overwintering bird species.

You might hope to spot – in season – pochard, grey heron…

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…little egret (pictured), cormorant, green sandpiper, lapwing, curlew…

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…greylag geese (picture: Getty Images), oystercatcher, whimbrel, golden plover and many more.

On the doorstep…

The Walthamstow Wetlands lie just North of the wild enclave of Walthamstow Marsh Nature Reserve, itself a Site of Special Scientific Interest, where rare plants thrive and peregrines swoop.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2014/07/14: A view of the Walthamstow Marshes. (Photo by Andrea Baldo/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Cycle Route 1 connects Walthamstow Marshes with Walthamstow Wetlands. Picture: Getty Images

Make a day of it

Route 1 in the National Cycle Network connects the Walthamstow Wetlands to to Walthamstow Marshes and the Olympic Park via the River Lea.

What else do you need to know?

Admission is free.

The main entrance is a 10-minute walk from Blackhorse Road Station on the Victoria Line.

The wetlands open daily, 9.30am to 4pm (October to March) and 9.30am to 5pm (April to September).

Grab a cuppa or a spot of lunch in the Visitor Centre and Café.

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More information at walthamstowwetlands.com