Walthamstow Wetlands

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Walthamstow Reservoirs)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Walthamstow Wetlands
Site of Special Scientific Interest
Walthamstow Wetlands is located in Greater London
Walthamstow Wetlands
Location within Greater London
Area of SearchGreater London
Grid referenceTQ350893
Coordinates51°35′11″N 0°03′08″W / 51.586350°N 0.052353°W / 51.586350; -0.052353Coordinates: 51°35′11″N 0°03′08″W / 51.586350°N 0.052353°W / 51.586350; -0.052353
Area211 hectares (520 acres)
Location mapMagic Map
Natural England website

Walthamstow Wetlands is a 211 ha (520 acres; 2.11 km2) nature reserve, containing the Walthamstow Reservoirs, in north east London. Opened on 20 October 2017,[1] the site is particularly important for wildlife due to its position within the Lee Valley; a byway for migrating, wintering and breeding birds in the Greater London area. The site is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is one of the largest urban wetland nature reserves in Europe. Visitors can freely access the site’s natural, industrial and social heritage in one of the capital’s most diverse and densely populated urban areas.[2]

The reservoirs, under the ownership of Thames Water, also form part of a larger Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation, noted for the mixture of aquatic and terrestrial habitats on site, and for their London-wide importance (especially for birds).

The Walthamstow Wetlands project is managed by London Wildlife Trust, in partnership with Thames Water and London Borough of Waltham Forest. The project was made possible after the Heritage Lottery Fund provided £4.4 million in funding. In total Walthamstow Wetlands has a value of £8m from capital works and revenue funding over five years, with Thames Water committing £1.84m to the project.[3]

The Greater London Authority have also funded the Wetlands to Wetlands Greenway, improving the 3 km (1.9 mi) cycle links between Woodberry Wetlands in Manor House and Walthamstow Wetlands to encourage visitors to visit both sites.[4]


The Walthamstow reservoirs were built on marshland adjoining the River Lea over fifty years between 1853 and 1904 by the East London Waterworks Company, growing in scale and height as the needs of London grew.

Walthamstow Reservoirs

The water bodies are a mix of statutory (raised) reservoirs and non-statutory (in ground) reservoirs. Historically the reservoirs were used and maintained purely as an element in the supply of water to London’s homes, businesses and industries, but in recent decades, the site has been justifiably recognised as much more than just a cluster of reservoirs with a single purpose.

The reservoirs were constructed on marshland adjoining the River Lee in the mid 19th century by the East London Waterworks Company. The East London Waterworks Company was one of eight private water companies in London absorbed by the Metropolitan Water Board in 1904, which was subsequently abolished in 1974. Control was then transferred to the Thames Water Authority, now Thames Water.

There are two significant Victorian industrial buildings still standing on the site. The Coppermill gave its name to the nearby Coppermill Lane, Coppermill Stream and the Coppermill's Water Treatment Works, and the Marine Engine House was used as a pumping station.

Walthamstow Wetlands was designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) on account of the reservoirs' national and international importance to breeding, migratory and wintering waterbirds.[5]

Walthamstow Reservoirs[edit]

Walthamstow Reservoirs
Site of Special Scientific Interest
Cormorant Island
Area of SearchGreater London
Grid referenceTQ351892
Area178.3 hectares
Location mapMagic Map
Path running between reservoirs 4 and 5

The Walthamstow Reservoirs complex is in Walthamstow in the London Borough of Waltham Forest at Walthamstow. They form part of the Lee Valley Reservoir Chain which supplies drinking water to London,[6] and are owned and managed by Thames Water.

The complex comprises ten reservoirs, which are a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI):[7][2]

The reservoirs have been developed as a public nature reserve, the Walthamstow Wetlands project, by London Wildlife Trust, in partnership with Thames Water and London Borough of Waltham Forest.[8] The site opened to the public in October 2017. It stills function as a working reservoir.


The ten reservoirs, grounds and the Coppermill Stream form an extensive enclave of natural habitats, albeit within a man made and securely fenced infrastructure. They are visited by birdwatchers and naturalists[9][10] but especially by anglers. All the reservoirs are variously stocked with fish, providing both coarse fishing and fly fishing. Carp over 40 pounds have been recorded, and rainbow trout up to 5 pounds.[11] An inexpensive day permit is required to visit the site.


There are two Victorian industrial structures on the site, including the Coppermill which gives its name to nearby Coppermill Lane, Coppermill Stream, and the Coppermills Water Treatment Works.[12]

The Marine Engine House[edit]

Constructed in 1894, the Marine Engine House, previously named the Ferry Lane Pumping Station, was built during the development of the reservoir complex.

The Marine Engine House prior to renovation works and conversion into a cafe and visitor centre

The structure is relatively complex in form, but consists primarily of a two-storey building with a single storey building attached to its northern side. To the west of this is a further single storey building which includes, on its western side, the base of a now-demolished chimney stack. The Marine Engine House is constructed throughout in brick and architecturally is in the simplified Italianate style much used for Victorian industrial buildings, with semi-circular heads to all of the principal door and window openings.

Roofs are generally finished in plain clay tiles with extensive use of patent glazed roof-lights and ridge lights in the single storey sections. The roof of the Engine House is pitched at around 45 degrees, and is half-hipped at its northern and southern ends. Doors and window frames are in painted softwood. Despite the missing chimney, and some external alterations, the building is still an imposing piece of Victorian industrial architecture. The Marine Engine House is to be repaired and refurbished with further plans for it to become an education and learning centre for visitors to the reserve.

The proposal is that it will house:[13]

  • Interpretation material on the site’s natural and industrial heritage and amenities
  • A multi-functional educational space, created for use as a classroom and as a venue for seminars and events
  • A ‘Water and Life’ exhibition
  • A central lobby area containing a reception and information resource
  • A café with capacity to spill out onto an outdoor decked area;
  • Toilet facilities
  • A modest retail outlet

The Coppermill[edit]

Coppermills, Walthamstow

The Coppermill building is Grade II Listed and has undergone a number of alterations over the centuries, including the addition of an Italianate tower in 1864. The mill at Walthamstow has been mentioned several times throughout historical records. It was noted that in the 14th century, the mill was powered by the Coppermill Stream that diverted from the River Lea for use in grinding corn. In 1611, four mills are mentioned in association with the Manor of Walthamstow.

From 1659 until 1703, the mill was known to have been used as a paper mill with the adjacent stream being referred to as the Paper-mill River. However, in 1699 the adjacent marshes are noted to have been referred to as Powder Mill Marsh which questions the use of the mill and suggests that it may have been used in the production of gunpowder for the English Civil War between 1642 and 1651. A number of gunpowder mills operated in the Lower Lee Valley, suggesting that the mill may have been used as such during this time.

Accounts from 1703, 1710, 1712 and 1718 record the mill being used as a leather mill, with Pierre Montier, a skin-dresser, first referred to as ‘the Miller’ in 1703 to be followed in turn by Peter Lefevre in 1711 and Daniel Lefevre in 1713.

The mill was noted as an ‘oyl mill’ until 1806 when it was rebuilt and put up for sale. In 1859 the mill was acquired for £4,000 by the East London Waterworks Company, which repurposed it as a pumping house. At present, the Coppermill serves as an operational hub for Thames Water[14]


Wood Sandpiper

The Walthamstow Reservoirs support the most notable variety of breeding wetland birds among all of London's drinking water reservoirs.[2]

Supporting a significant wintering population of pochard, shoveler and gadwall, Walthamstow Wetlands is regionally important to breeding populations of grey heron, tufted duck, little egret, cormorant and other waterfowl. Because of its location in the Lee Valley, Walthamstow Wetlands attracts a range of wading birds that stop off during their often long-distance journeys.[15]

The wooded islands on No. 1 reservoir are the location of the famous heronry, at which the numbers of breeding pairs reach a level placing it in the country's top five sites. Formerly also a heronry, the two islands in No. 5 reservoir are now home to large numbers of cormorants.[11] Great crested grebe, pochard, tufted duck, coot, yellow wagtail, sedge warbler and reed warbler are all regular breeding visitors,[2] whilst other regular visitors to the reservoirs include green and common sandpiper, dunlin, redshank and lapwing, while less common species include ringed and little ringed plover, curlew, ruff, snipe, oystercatcher, wood sandpiper, whimbrel, golden plover and little stint.

Nearly 300 species of plant have been recorded in the wooded areas, grass banks, fen and open water habitats of the reservoirs.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Walthamstow Wetlands | Visit Walthamstow Wetlands". www.walthamstow-wetlands.org.uk. Retrieved 27 October 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d "Walthamstow Reservoirs SSSI citation" (PDF). Natural England.
  3. ^ "Walthamstow Wetlands Funding PDF" (PDF).
  4. ^ "Mayors report".
  5. ^ "Walthamstow Reservoirs SSSI citation" (PDF).
  6. ^ pp3 Reservoir information Retrieved December 10, 2007
  7. ^ "Map of Walthamstow Reservoirs SSSI". Natural England.
  8. ^ "Walthamstow Wetlands | Visit Walthamstow Wetlands". www.walthamstow-wetlands.org.uk. Retrieved 27 October 2015.
  9. ^ Angling information Retrieved December 10, 2007
  10. ^ Thames Water Retrieved December 11, 2007
  11. ^ a b http://www.thameswater.co.uk/cps/rde/xchg/corp/hs.xsl/6253.htm Thames Water information page
  12. ^ http://exploringeastlondon.co.uk/Walthamstowest/Westwalthamstow.htm#Copper The Coppermill
  13. ^ "Walthamstow Wetlands | Walthamstow Wetlands Marine Engine House". www.walthamstow-wetlands.org.uk. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  14. ^ "Walthamstow Wetlands | Walthamstow Wetlands Marine Engine House". www.walthamstow-wetlands.org.uk. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  15. ^ "Weblog: Walthamstow Reservoir". appsrv.cse.cuhk.edu.hk. Retrieved 28 October 2015.

External links[edit]