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WaterWorks Centre Nature Reserve and Middlesex Filter Beds

This is where the Victorians built waterworks to provide water for the ever-expanding population around North and East of London. Now this has become a valuable habitat for wildlife with 25 different bird species breeding here.

The wooded areas attract tits and finches as well as great spotted and green woodpeckers.

Kestrels and sparrowhawks have been seen, returning from Hackney Marshes where they hunt for food. Grey wagtails and kingfishers nest on the banks of the weir.

There are frogs, toads and newts and bats, and over 200 plant species have been identified including cuckooflower and purple loosestrife.

We can find a poignant beauty in the site’s industrial heritage – the long abandoned rail tracks, rusting equipment and lumps of stone and their presence reminds us that our built landscape cannot endure once nature takes over.

A wooden walkway takes us through a wet landscape which is reminiscent of natural rain forests although this one began as an industrial project.

This is where grass snakes come to find their prey although of course they are completely harmless to humans. They then retreat to an area out of sight where sheets of corrugated iron lay dotted around because they love to lay in the heat.

And here on this nature reserve we can spot painted lady and red admiral butterflies, fluttering in this inner East London landscape.

Outside the nature reserve there are the Middlesex Filter Beds – walking around here feels more edgy somehow as it feels like trespassing. There are sudden deep excavations with trees and plants tumbling all around as if this abandoned site now belongs to them.

The vertical structures here are covered with mosses and liverworts – essential for a healthy environment and the brick work of the old filter beds walls provide shelter for amphibians.

Middlesex Filter Beds may have been designed to provide drinking water to people – but they have almost accidentally created an ideal home for nature.

Walk from Leyton Marshes or Hackney Marshes or from the River Lea Tow Path or from Lea Bridge Station


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