Walthamstow Marshes

The area of Walthamstow Marshes, as well as Leyton Marsh and Coppermill Fields, is located in the Lea Bridge area, and is an award winning nature reserve and natural grasslands site. It is in fact one of the few remaining river valley grasslands that once covered most of what we call London. It is a part of the ancient natural environment that needs to be treasured and protected.

Photo by Matthew Black
Photo by Matthew Black

Exploring the Marshes

The marshes are the perfect place to explore on two wheels as there are a number of cycle pathways that you can follow. There are also plenty of paths for walkers to enjoy. As you walk or ride around the marshes there are a number of things that you need to watch out for. For example it is not unusual to see buzzards and peregrine falcons in the skies above the marshes. Take your eyes off the skies and direct them towards ground level and you will find that at your feet are some of the rarest plants in the country, namely Brookweed and Marshwort. Nature has made something of a comeback to the marshes of late with Hop Sedge finally being seen again after an absence of half a century.

Natural Grassland Habitat

The area known as Walthamstow Marshes is the very last authentic grassland habitat that at one time covered very much the whole of the Lee Valley. This was an area that was known as Lammas Land, meaning that this was land that once the hay was cut livestock would be allowed onto the land for grazing. Aspects of Lammas Land management are being re-introduced and now you can find cattle wandering the site and grazing the land as they once did.

The Marshwort which creeps across the landscape here can be identified by its small white flowers, it can be found around edges of ditches where the cattle have been grazing. This plant is very rarely found in the United Kingdom, this is only one of three sites in the whole of the UK where it is found. The marshes are a haven for wildlife such as certain butterflies that can only be found within a certain distance of London such as the Essex Skipper. You may also encounter water vole and kingfisher depending upon the time of year you visit. The marshes are teaming with small mammals and a good way to figure out where they are is to watch the kestrels circling in the sky.

Location of the Marshes

Walthamstow Marshes are situated on the border of Waltham Forest and Hackney. They have been designated a site of special scientific interest which considering their location, so close to major urbanisation is exceptional. There are species of plant thriving here that are rare not only in the UK but also internationally and there are a number of rare birds that winter on the marshes from autumn onwards. The marshes are a natural link between the reservoirs to the north of the marshes and Hackney Marshes to the south, to the west of the marshes is the River Lee.

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