by Marco Cillario Thu 8 June 2017, 12:42 pm
A significant milestone was reached in the £8.7 million development of one of the largest urban wetland nature reserves in Europe, as the topping out of a swift tower at the site was marked.
The project aims to open Thames Water’s Walthamstow Reservoirs to the public, providing free access to the 211-ha wetlands.
Made up of 10 separate wetlands, the site will continue to be operational for Thames Water, supplying 500 million litres of water daily to around 1.5 million people across north east London.
The swift tower has been built at the Victorian Engine House – one of two historic buildings being renovated at the site.
Built in 1894, the engine house will be turned into a visitor centre with a cafe, exhibition and events space, education room and viewing terrace.
The new 24m swift tower replaces the original industrial chimney, demolished in the 1950s, and includes 54 nest boxes to attract urban swifts, along with a roost for bats.
Gordon Scorer, chief executive of London Wildlife Trust, said the site would provide “accommodation for the swifts that migrate here every year from Africa”.
“These amazing birds can spend up to 10 months on the wing, never touching ground while feeding on insects, mating and even sleeping in the air,” he added.
“Numbers have been declining dramatically, so it’s really important for us to provide a safe place for them to nest and raise their young when they reach the wetlands – and the swift tower should do the job nicely.”
Elsewhere at the site, a viewing platform is under construction in the Grade-II listed Coppermill Tower.
Waltham Forest Council is working on the project in partnership with Thames Water, which owns the site, and London Wildlife Trust, which will deliver a programme of activities once the scheme is complete, as well as managing the conservation of the area.
The Heritage Lottery Fund contributed £4.47 million towards the scheme, while the partners provided £3.7million.
Walthamstow Wetlands will open to the public in autumn 2017.
Being home to a wide range of bird species, the area is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a site of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, and a Special Protection Area of local, national and international importance.
Wildlife at the site includes dragonflies and falcons.
If you are interested in reading more about Waltham Forest, subscribe to our newsletter