WaterWorks Centre nature reserve and field & Middlesex Filter Beds
Come and enjoy our Green Flag winning open spaces
The WaterWorks Centre and Café is currently closed. The nature reserve and Waterworks Fields are still open to people adhering to the national or local restrictions when they apply.
We're reviewing the future of the WaterWorks Centre at present and it will remain closed whilst this review is carried out.
The WaterWorks Centre nature reserve
Out and about on the reserve there’s even more to see, because over 500 varieties of plants and one quarter of Britain’s butterfly species have been recorded here.
The WaterWorks Centre nature reserve has become a unique wildlife haven and a fantastic area for all the family just a few miles from central London. Previously known as the Essex Filter Beds, over 150 years ago it began supplying the surrounding boroughs with much needed clean water.
The WaterWorks Centre nature reserve has one of the largest bird hides in London offering close-up views across a series of filter beds, each with its own unique character.
In spring and autumn waders on passage through Lee Valley drop into the site. Common and Green Sandpiper are regular visitors, whilst Wood Sandpiper and Black-tailed Godwit have recently been recorded.
The secluded beds are a fantastic place to get up-close to Teal and Snipe and in summer Pochard and Little Grebe breed here. A variety of wildfowl including Gadwall and Shoveler can be viewed from the central hide.
Sand Martin’s are regular summer visitors and have use the artificial nesting towers to breed. An artificial Kingfisher bank has also been installed and there are superb views of Moorhen, Little Grebe and Tufted Duck.
Certain beds have been allowed to form dense scrub and are home to species such as Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff, whilst Sedge and Reed Warbler nest amongst the reeds. Listen out for Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker. The flood relief channel adjacent to the WaterWorks is also an excellent place to view bats foraging in the warm summer evenings.
WaterWorks Centre nature reserve hosts a collection of works by local artists. Each sculpture further develops the site as a hub for public art and allows visitors to enjoy art in the great outdoors.
The WaterWorks Centre field
The WaterWorks Field, as the area was once known was originally part of Leyton Marshes. By 1933 the site was used for recreation, mainly football pitches. Lee Valley Regional Park acquired the site on 26 July 1969, and it was then converted to a pitch and putt until 2003 when the WaterWorks Centre was built and the pitch and putt upgraded to an 18-hole, 3-par golf course, which operated until its closure in 2012. The site was used as a campsite during London 2012 Olympics and continued to provide camping during the Shell Expo at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and occasional events.
Since the closure of the golf course, infrastructure was removed and a more relaxed management of the site was adopted, there still remains a few of the bunkers around the periphery of the site which now act as basking point for insects and reptiles.
The site mainly consists of large swathes of grassland with a hornbeam avenue alongside the railway on the eastern side of the site and a few trees doted about the field. The grassland is currently managed by annual cuts which helps increase the diversity of the once amenity grassland. The River Lea forms the western boundary and from the bank you can often see Kingfisher darting along close to the water’s surface. Banded Demoiselle flit along the river edge and its worth keeping an eye out for the Willow Emerald Damselfly, a recent newcomer to the area.
There is a small fenced off area which is used for dog agility classes at weekends and Forest Schools during the week.
A suite of ecological surveys is being undertaken during 2021 by Lee Valley Regional Park Authority to inform the future management of the site.
The site links to Hackney Marshes over Friends bridge and to Walthamstow Marshes along the park pathway
Please be advised there is no swimming at this site. See more on our water safety policy here.
There are a number of ecological surveys commissioned for the WaterWorks Fields over the coming year. These will help increase our understanding of the site and feed into discussions regarding its future management. The surveys include studies into the reptiles, wetland mammals, bats, invertebrates and birds found on site, the results will be posted here and shared with Greenspace Information for Greater London (GIGL), London’s Local Environmental Records Centre.
We'd love to hear about the wildlife you’ve spotted in Lee Valley Regional Park. Every record helps us to monitor how species are doing throughout the park and will also feed into wider county records. You can submit your records online.
Middlesex Filter Beds
This ten acre haven for wildlife is a short walk from the neighboring WaterWorks Centre nature reserve.
Built by the East London WaterWorks Company in the mid 1800’s they demonstrate how previously industrial areas can become valuable habitats for wildlife.
Come and visit and you may well see toads, frogs and newts, dragonfly and damselfly, plus over 60 different species of bird. The filter beds also boast Paula Haughney’s monumental Nature’s Throne, made from huge granite blocks salvaged from an old engine house.
With a variety of habitats the filter beds provide interesting wildlife throughout the year. The wooded areas are excellent for flocks of tits and finches. Look out for Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker. Kestrel and Sparrowhawk are found on the reserve and will also hunt on the adjacent open grassland of Hackney Marshes.
The brickwork of the old bed walls provides shelter for amphibians and in spring the wetlands are home to frogs, toads and newts. The weir is a good spot for Grey Wagtail and Kingfisher, which nest along the banks.
More than 200 plant species have been recorded including Cuckooflower and Purple Loosestrife. There’s also a community of interesting mosses and liverworts along the old walls of the beds.