Opened in October 2017, Walthamstow Wetlands is Europe's largest urban wetland center. The vast site covers an area of 211 hectares and features 10 reservoirs, eight islands and 13 miles of tracks for walking and cycling. It's owned by Thames Water and supplies water to 3.5 millions households across London but it's also a top spot for nature lovers. The reserve attracts migrating lapwings and sandpipers as well as cormorants, goldfinches, Cetti's warblers and swans. Located in Tottenham in north London, a few miles from the Olympic stadium, it's hard to believe that this tranquil site is just a 15-minute tube ride from Oxford Circus.
What to Do There
Explore the area on foot or on two wheels. There are concrete paths around the main reservoirs and dirt tracks elsewhere. Head up to the grassy banks to get close to the water and keep your eyes peeled for wildlife including kingfishers, grey herons, kestrels and peregrine falcons. The area is part of the Lee Valley migratory route and is protected as an internationally important site for wetland birds. There are wooden huts dotted around the site for birdwatching and you'll see colorful wildflowers lining the paths in the summer months.
You can fish in designated reservoirs between 7am and 7:30pm but you'll need to pick up a permit from the fisheries office. Carp fishing is especially popular in the area.
There's a visitor centre and a cafe in the renovated Engine House at the main entrance of the reserve. It was originally built in 1894 as a steam-driven engine to pump water into London's homes but now houses a permanent exhibition of the area's wildlife and heritage as well as a cafe with an outdoor eating area, a shop selling gifts like local honey and a viewing platform overlooking the nature reserve.
The Engine House Cafe serves breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea. You can refuel with hand-roasted coffee and cakes from artisan bakers and much of the food is sourced from local producers. Head outside to the terrace when the weather's nice or enjoy the double-height ceilings and exposed brickwork inside. There's a cool retro coffee van close to the main entrance for on-the-go drinks. Just opposite the main entrance on Ferry Lane is the Ferry Boat, a traditional pub that serves real ale and classic pub grub like sausage and mash and scampi and chips.
How to Visit
Walthamstow Wetlands is completely free to visit. It's open seven days a week between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. (October to March) and 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (April to September).
The Engine House visitor center and cafe is fitted with a ramp and an elevator and is fully accessible for people with mobility issues. While the site features a main concrete pathway, many of the other paths are dirt tracks so may be muddy and uneven in places (something to take into consideration when visiting with wheelchairs and buggies. Dogs (other than assistance dogs) are not permitted in order to protect the wildlife.
How to Get There
The main entrance to Walthamstow Wetlands is located on Forest Road in Tottenham. The closest tube station is Tottenham Hale (on the Victoria line), a seven-minute walk away. It's a 10-minute walk from Blackhorse Road station (also on the Victoria line). Tottenham Hale is a 15-minute journey from Oxford Circus.
What to Do Nearby
Beavertown Brewery is one of London's coolest craft breweries and is a 15-minute walk away from Walthamstow Wetlands. Its taproom is open every Saturday between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. for beer tastings and snacks from a variety of street food vendors. In Walthamstow you can visit God's Own Junkyard, a warehouse stuffed full of vintage neon signs and artwork, stroll around its village center lined with cute boutiques and bars and check out the William Morris Gallery to see some of the artist's finest tapestries, furniture and wallpaper. Close to the Blackhorse Road entrance, the Blackhorse Workshop is home to studios where architects, furniture makers, carpenters and artists create, design and produce work. It's open every Saturday for tours and there's a cafe on site for speciality coffee and homemade cakes.