Walthamstow Marsh Nature Reserve, Coppermill Fields and Leyton Marsh are all part of this Green Flag award-winning site in the Lea Bridge area.
Landscaping works around Ox-bow Island
In August 2019, we started our five-year Ox Bow Island Project in partnership with Canal and River Trust and Thames 21. We’ve completed the majority of the works but were delayed by the February storms and will now install the vegetation raft at the southern entrance to the Ox Bow after nesting season
The works made improvements to the existing land bridge to the Ox Bow Island and reinstated the river flow through the Ox Bow. This was needed due to the collapse of the existing pipe in the land bridge and debris in the southern entrance to the Ox Bow from the River Lee which was preventing water flow. This which was causing the Ox Bow channel to stagnate.
Other improvements have been made to the habitat which will help with the channel’s water quality and appearance with a ‘living boom’ – a floating reedbed to stop litter flowing into the channel from the river which, in turn, will help reduce pollution. We’ve also added a reed fringe to stabilise the bank edge, improving the habitat for water voles and fish
This winter, the pathways on the island will be formalised by introducing “dead hedging” barriers and surfacing of the footpaths with wood chip. This will restrict access across the island, reduce anti-social behaviour and help protect areas for wildlife. A gate and dead hedge will be installed on the southern land area between the Lee Valley Ice Centre car park and the Ox Bow to prevent public access through this area. Maintenance teams will use this route to get to the site.
It’s great to see swans, coots, moorhens and mallards enjoying the revitalised Ox Bow backwater already.
We’ll continue to improve the natural barrier of trees currently screening Lee Valley Ice Centre and its car park. This will return over the next few seasons as new trees mature.
This work will improve this area and make it better for future generations. We appreciate your patience and understanding during this time.
If you have any more questions you can contact:
Lee Valley Regional Park Authority Ranger Services Manager, Ges Hoddinott | firstname.lastname@example.org or
020 8988 7565
Canal & River Trust | 0303 040 4040
Walthamstow Marsh Nature Reserve, Coppermill Fields and Leyton Marsh are all part of this Green Flag award-winning site in the Lea Bridge area. The reserve is one of the last remaining examples of London’s once widespread floodplain grasslands, and a space to treasure for many reasons!
Please also read our You and Your Dog at Walthamstow Marshes leaflet to find out more about have to make your visit to the marshes safe and enjoyable for both you and others.
Please also note:
Be mindful of signage round the site and adhere instructions
No material dead or alive should be taken from the reserve
Please keep cycling to hard surface paths and avoid damaging the marsh vegetation
Dogs should be kept out of ditches, ponds and long vegetation to avoid disturbance or harm to wildlife
Dogs must be kept under close control at all times and on leads where signage indicates so
Fires and BBQs are strictly forbidden anywhere on the park. Grassland fires are a real danger, especially during the dry season and pose threat to the safety of visitors, cattle and wildlife
History of the marshes
Walthamstow Marsh is a small area of wetland bordering the River Lea and nestled between Hackney and Waltham Forest. It’s one of the last remaining examples of London’s once vast and widespread floodplain grasslands. Since Saxon times onwards and well into the 20th century the marsh was used as Lammas Land, a place where local people could cut hay and graze their livestock.
During the industrial revolution, the land retained its agricultural use, though increasingly hemmed in by surrounding developments. As interest was lost in hay making and grazing, the local council acquired the site with plans to develop it for recreational use though WWII and a period of austerity prevented these plans for going ahead.
In 1909, the pioneer, Sir Edwin Alliott Verdon Roe became the first Englishman to fly an all-British made triplane (The Yellow Terror) on Walthamstow Marshes. A blue plaque commemorating his efforts is located at the Western end of the Viaduct where he built his machine.
World War II left its scars on the landscape here as it did throughout the Lea Valley. Signs of anti-landing trenches and the impacts of bombs from the war are still visible today.
In 1965, Walthamstow Marshes was acquired by Lee Valley Regional Park Authority as part of its plans to acquire land which now form the Lee Valley Regional Park. After pressure from local campaigners to protect the marshes from development, Walthamstow Marshes was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1985 and since designated a nature reserve by the park authority. The reserve is now actively managed by LVRPA with the aims of retaining its original grassland meadows and marshlands and increasing its value for wildlife, while providing for informal recreation.
You can keep up to date with the marshes with our Rangers Musing on the Marshes Newsletter
Walthamstow Marshes is locally and regionally important for its variety of semi-natural wetland habitats with over 400 plant species. Many of these wild plants have adapted to the seasonal flooding conditions experienced on site. Nothing new has been planted here and the site has never been ploughed or fertilised. Nearly all plant life that grows does so from the existing seed bank in the soils. Adder’s-tongue Fern is one species of plant which grows here between April and August and is often an indicator of ancient grasslands.
Creeping Marshwort is a small white flowering plant restricted to an area of the South Marsh known as The Scrape. This plant is classified as being critically endangered and so rare in the UK that it is only found here and at two other sites in England.
Cattle were re-introduced to the site in 2003 after a gap of 69 years and help manage the marsh’s diversity of plants and animals. Conservation grazing is carried out between May and November of each year and then move off further north in the park to overwinter.
The woodlands are a recent and unintentional addition to the marshes. They are managed using traditional practices such as coppicing and pollarding during the winter. Woodland edge and garden birds frequent the wood attracted by the tree cover and food resource. Deadwood provides a valuable resource for fungi and insects as well.
The marshes are home to over 500 species of insect which including butterflies and dragonflies. The Willow Emerald Damselfly is one recent arrival to the marshes and has a restricted distribution within London.
Grass Snake and Common Toad begin to appear as soon as warm temperatures return in spring attracted to the ponds and ditches where they breed, feed and hibernate.
One of Britain’s rarest and most elusive mammals, the Water Vole, lives and breeds in the ditches and ponds here. Look out for signs of its presence with its distinctive piles of grey tic-tac shaped droppings marking its territory. They’re best noticed early in the day in spring before the vegetation grows tall.
You’re also likely to see a great deal of birdlife with 136 different species recorded using the marshes. Peregrine Falcons watch closely from the nearby pylons and Kestrels hover above the fields. Sedge and Reed Warblers arrive in spring and summer to breed and wildfowl frequent flooded parts during the winter.
So come and celebrate nature’s comeback at Walthamstow Marshes!