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Can you believe that the Walthamstow Wetlands – Europe’s largest urban wetlands is only a five minute walk from a London Underground station and just 15 minutes from central London on the tube? In fact, we didn’t know about this ‘water-world’ until we moved back to London and settled in Tottenham Hale, meaning we are now lucky enough to have this natural nirvana right on our doorstep.
Guide to Walthamstow Wetlands
Situated over a massive 211 hectare site (two distinct parks divided by the main road), the Walthamstow Wetlands are a blessed relief from the hustle and bustle that you’d normally associate with London life, and a world away from the tourist tracks that sometimes spoil (and overcrowd) Hyde Park or Green Park. The space comprises of 10 interlinking reservoirs that are still used today to provide much of London’s drinking water – it also the largest fishery in London (no wonder all the birds seem so keen to visit!)
And best of all, it is totally free admission – whilst it costs almost £15 for an adult to enter the London Wetlands Centre in Barnes, the Walthamstow Wetlands are totally free to visit (although donations are appreciated). Suitable for walkers, bikers and joggers (and of course birdwatchers), some of the walkways are only open to walkers (and closed totally during other parts of the year), to ensure the natural habitats aren’t disturbed too much.
We’ve visited Walthamstow Wetlands many times, particularly during the covid19 / coronavirus outbreak where this became our haven. Throughout all the four seasons it is amazing to see how nature changes over the course of the year – our favourite time of year to visit is during Spring (April / May time) when the ducklings and chicks are out, and the blossom (particularly around the Trout Fishery hut) is in full bloom.
As well as the common Canadian geese and swans, we’ve encountered Coots, Egyptian Geese and Peregrines plus heaps of Herons. If you are keen ‘twitcher’ (birdwatcher), the Walthamstow Wetlands has a regularly updated guide to what has been spotted in and around the reservoirs.
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If you are taking a trip to the Walthamstow Wetlands for the first time, start your visit at the old Victorian Engine House building which has an information centre in the foyer, full of helpful leaflets with knowledgeable staff on hand to assist with any enquiries. There is also a small but well stocked gift shop and toilet facilities, plus you can explore the viewing gallery on the upper level (which has been known to house bat colonies).
Feeling peckish or as hungry as a hawk? If you want to make a day or it or fill up before your walk, grab a hot drink, breakfast or light lunch at the Larder Cafe, also situated in the Engine House – you can dine inside or on the outdoor dining deck with views of the wetlands. During the summer months, the site hosts popular events programme with lots of family activities (some free, some paid for).
Our advice would be to wear sensible walking (or running) shoes that you don’t mind getting caped in bird poo and to take binoculars. Plus, once you’ve finished wandering the Walthamstow Wetlands, why not explore Walthamstow itself (check out our Walthamstow guide) or totter off into Tottenham, using our things to do in Tottenham guide.
Walthamstow Wetlands address and opening hours
Address: 2 Forest Road, N17 9NH
Opening hours: Everyday 9.30am-4pm
Walthamstow Wetlands is just a short walk from Blackhorse Road station (Victoria line tube and London Overground) and Tottenham Hale station (Victoria line tube and Greater Anglia trains).
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