Enjoy a historic stroll at Waltham Abbey Gardens. This was once one of the largest Augustinian abbeys in the country, and information panels all around the site bring its history to life. The Abbey’s peaceful rose gardens also provides plenty of benches and picnic tables. Just sit back, relax and wind down in beautiful surroundings.
Walk just a little further and you enter a very special habitat – Cornmill Meadows support an amazing variety of dragon and damselflies. Simply looking at these elegant creatures in motion is a wonderful de-stress therapy!
There’s a hide too, from which you can watch the Meadows’ fascinating population of birds.
Cornmill Meadows is one of the best examples of semi-natural floodplain grassland remaining in the park. The mosaic of rivers, ditches and pools make this a fantastic place to see a variety of wildlife throughout the year. Hay meadows, woodland and a network of glades and rides can be found in the adjacent tree park.
Spring and autumn are excellent times to visit to see waders passing through the valley, with the possibility of interesting species such as Ruff and Black-tailed Godwit as well as Redshank and Common and Green Sandpiper.
Summer provides one of the best places in the region to see dragonflies, with over half the UK species found here, notably the White-legged Damselfly and Hairy Dragonfly. In late summer the woodland glades can be worth scouting on a fine evening for large numbers of Migrant Hawker Dragonfly. Follow the circular Dragonfly Discovery Trail which takes in a variety of habitats.
In winter there are magnificent views of large flocks of Wigeon and Teal. These are regularly joined by flocks of hundreds of Lapwing and Golden Plover.
A walk along the rivers and streams is interesting at any time of year. Look out for Kingfisher or dragonflies. The Banded Demoiselle is particularly striking.
No visit is complete without stopping at the Wake Hide to view the pools. Good numbers of Teal and waders can be seen in winter, whilst in summer Hobby hunt dragonflies overhead. You may even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a Water Vole or hear the distinctive ‘plop’ as it dives into the water.
Royal Gunpowder Mills
Close to Waltham Abbey Gardens is Royal Gunpowder Mills, a great place for families to spend days out exploring the secret history of gunpowder, explosives and rocket propellants. This site is packed full of history spanning from Tudor times to the early 90s as well as wonderful nature with Fallow Deer roaming the grounds and amazing bird life. Open for events days, so plan your visit in advance.