Lonely Planet Writer

Europe’s largest urban wetland nature reserve opens to the public

Wildlife lovers can visit Europe’s largest urban wetland nature reserve as the site opens to the public for the first time in 150 years, and it’s only a 15-minute Tube ride from central London.

Travellers are able to explore the wetlands for the first time. Image by Walthamstow Wetlands

Walthamstow Wetlands, a massive wetland and operating water reserve, opened to the public for the first time on 20 October, allowing travellers, families, anglers and birders to explore the urban green space. The site has become the latest tranquil retreat from the bustle of London thanks to ten years of conservational work and investment from groups like the London Wildlife Trust and the Heritage Lottery Fund London.

A grey heron in Walthamstow Wetlands. Image by Walthamstow Wetlands

The site is made up of ten reservoirs that are also an important refuge for waterbirds like pochard, shoveler and gadwall, and a stopover for migrating birds. It is home to the largest heronry in London and visitors can see incredible wildlife, like kingfishers and peregrine falcons. It is also home to London’s largest recreational fishery, with fish such as trout, carp, roach, tench and perch. The goal is to make the site the country’s most accessible nature reserve.

The wildlife reserve is only a 15-minute Tube ride from central London. Image by Walthamstow Wetlands

While it will certainly become an attraction for anyone looking for a bit of wildlife in London, the reservoirs are also a supply site for Thames Water, providing drinking water to millions of people in northeast London. There have also been a couple of heritage buildings on site that have been renovated. The Engine House, built in 1885, has been turned into a visitor centre, café and education space. Another building, a Grade II listed Coppermill Tower, will provide views of the wetlands and London.

An engine house in Walthamstow Wetlands. Image by Walthamstow Wetlands

For anyone who wants to visit, the main entrance to the wetland is 2 Forest Road, London N17 9NH. It is a 10-minute walk from Blackhorse Road station, which is served by the Victoria line and the overground.