Submitted by: Gavin Rogers
Recently Waltham Forest Council received the wonderful news that the Heritage Lottery Fund would be providing £4.4m of funding to help see the Walthamstow Wetlands project come to fruition.
The announcement of the successful bid means that the £8.7m project – that includes additional funding from the Council and the owners of the site, Thames Water – can now transform the 200 hectare site into a unique landscape where people can experience open skies and waterscapes.
Councillor Clare Coghill, Waltham Forest Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Growth and High Streets, said: “The creation of the largest urban wetland nature reserve in London is really going to change the way people use this area.
“Obviously it will be a great place to walk and enjoy the open space, but it will also help connect us to the rest of London and our neighbouring boroughs.
“For our residents in Waltham Forest this is great news, but actually this provides a great benefit to the wider population in East London and further afield. The site borders Waltham Forest, Haringey and Hackney and its proximity to the Olympic Park will tie it to the other facilities there.”
The scheme will see 1.6 km of cycle and footpath running through the heart of the Wetlands from Lockwood Way in the north to Coppermill Lane to the south. This will link into the existing network of pathways around the reservoirs.
There will also be four new entrances, with free public access during the site’s opening hours. Improved habitats to support the nature conservation value of the site have also been factored in, as has preservation of the site’s industrial heritage, including restoration of a locally listed pumping station to house a visitor centre, café, exhibition space, viewing terrace and educational space.
London Wildlife Trust will undertake the day to day management of the site, enhancing habitats for a wide range of species whilst ensuring that visitor numbers do not adversely affect the site’s important wildlife.
The Trust will encourage volunteering and active participation by local communities in the management and conservation of the site, and over 100 schools have expressed interest in visits and educational opportunities.
The site is fully operational, feeding Coppermill water treatment works which supplies water to millions of Londoners. It is also the largest fishery in the city and a site of international importance for the wildlife that it supports, in particular its waterfowl.
The refurbishment and reuse of the locally listed Marine Engine House will include a café located in the triple engine room, with a new mezzanine level to create a first floor exhibition area. There will also be an educational facility and the potential for venue hire and temporary artist installations. Plus a viewing platform in the Grade II listed Coppermill Tower, a new car park and an upgraded Ranger’s Lodge that will house a volunteer’s hub.
London Wildlife Trusts website says the Walthamstow Wetlands is “such an important site – surrounded by heavily urbanised areas to the east and west, and interconnecting sites of high wildlife and biodiversity value to the north and south – contributes significantly to its potential as nature reserve which connects wildlife, landscape and people, and becomes a treasured asset for the communities of Tottenham, Clapton, Walthamstow, Higham Hill and beyond.”
The site will be free to access. By comparison, the London Wetland centre in Barnes, West London, costs over £10 for an adult to visit and over £5 for a child.