If you follow this website, you'll have read a lot about local wetlands schemes in our parks and green spaces, most notably the transformation of the land surrounding Firs Farm playing fields into Firs Farm Wetlands. There's another new wetlands to report on this week, but of a very different nature and different scale.
Walthamstow Wetlands isn't the kind of wetlands that involves slowing down a stream or small river in order to filter out impurities and reduce the risk of flooding. For one thing, there's a lot more water. Once it was marshland along the Lea Valley, but 150 years ago channels were dug through the marshes to organise the water flow and create dry land and a series of reservoirs built to provide drinking water for London. At the same time the whole area was closed off from public access, creating in effect a nature reserve where flora and fauna could thrive.
Walthamstow Wetlands opened to the public last weekend and claims to be the largest urban wetlands in Europe. It stretches from Tottenham in the north to Walthamstow in the south and incorporates no fewer than ten reservoirs. As well as providing peace, quiet and beauty and acting as a nature reserve, the area is also an outdoor industrial museum.
Entry is free, but there are only a few points where you can access the wetlands, the easiest to reach being in Ferry Lane, between Tottenham Hale and Blackhorse Lane stations. In the north it abuts onto Tottenham Marshes, in the south Walthamstow Marshes, both wonderful areas that were opened up to the public relatively recently. You'll have seen the reservoirs and channels if you've ever been on the railway line that runs from Gospel Oak to Barking (now part of the Overground) and looked out of the window on the stretch between South Tottenham and Blackhorse Road.
Walthamstow Wetlands is a public, private and charity partnership between Thames Water, landowner, London Borough of Waltham Forest, grant holder, and London Wildlife Trust, the conservation delivery partner. Of the £10.6 million total, £4.47 million is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, £1.8 million from Thames Water and £1.8 million from the London Borough of Waltham Forest. The Greater London Authority provided £750,000 to support the 2km cycle path through the site.
If Walthamstow Wetlands whets (or wets) your appetite for watery expanses, don't forget about Woodberry Wetlands, another area of reservoirs that was closed to the public until last year. In this case the reservoirs hold water from the New River and the wetlands are close to Green Lanes and the new and expensive residential tower blocks that are being built among the remains of one of western Europe's largest coucil estates.