Written for London360 in May 2016:
Living and growing up in this city, Londoners have been very fortunate to have wildlife at their doorstep. However, the most we see are Urban Foxes, Pigeons, Parakeets, Grey Squirrels and the occasional Mice/Rat.
But did you know that there are two wetland habitats found close to the heart of the capital? The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) have a Wetland Centre which is located ten minutes away from Hammersmith, just south of the River Thames in Barnes. They aim to educate members of the public especially school children whilst protecting the species that are found in the capital. They have a variety of wetland habitats from all over the world, migratory birds including Bewick’s Swans and the elusive Bittern and have Oriental Small-clawed Otters which are visitor favourite to watch.
Taken at the WWT London Wetland Centre
The newest wetland habitat is found in Stoke Newington and is called Woodbury Wetlands. This is run by the London Wildlife Trust (LWT) and was opened in May 2016. The nature reserve was opened officially by Sir David Attenborough. Woodberry Wetlands is home to some amazing wildlife including Kingfishers, Reed Warblers and Comorants. The site was originally known as East Reservoir and was built in 1833, but it has taken 200 years for it to be opened to Londoners.
Woodberry Wetlands (Credit: Penny Dixie / London Wildlife Trust)
There is a bigger project for the Walthamstow Reservoirs to become a huge wetland habitat which is set to be open in 2017. This will be jointly run by LWT, the London Borough of Waltham Forest, Thames Water and the Heritage Lottery Fund. The site will become another essential place for Londoners to visit and get up close to nature; plus it will dwarf the other London wetland sites in terms of size.
Finally, it is great to see more safe wild havens for the capital’s wildlife. More importantly it is essential to educate Londoners, protect these sites for future generations and show the 13,000 species found in this amazing city.
Grey Lag Geese at Walthamstow Reservoirs (Walthamstow Wetlands) (Credit: Penny Dixie / London Wildlife Trust)