Woodberry Wetlands in Hackney was permanently opened to the public for the first time in 200 years by Sir David Attenborough on Saturday (April 30).
The wetland reserve in Hackney was created from Stoke Newington’s East Reservoir and covers an area the size of 13 football pitches.
The reservoir, managed by London Wildlife Trust, is surrounded by Woodberry Down’s social housing estates and new developments and will provide the area with a range of wildlife and species.
Sir David said: “It’s a great facility and a great benefit to the people living around it. There are an awful lot of people in certain cities or elsewhere who live in a world of concrete and asphalt and brick and glass and who don’t see wildlife at all so it’s a huge benefit.”
He added: “[Wildlife is] not a luxury you know. It’s what human beings deserve and we are a part of it. If you lose contact with the natural world, you lose contact with a great source of pleasure and delight, which is your birthright.”
The Woodberry Wetlands were built as a reservoir in 1830-1833, however from 1955-1980 chlorine and sodium phosphate gas were pumped into the reservoir to disinfect the water, which prevented almost all wildlife from living there.
The project to restore the wetlands and create a public nature reserve began in 2010. The new wetlands now attract species including birds such as Kingfishers and Cetti’s Warblers, amphibians such as toads and frogs, in addition to bats, butterflies and moths.
Managed by the London Wildlife Trust, the project was supported by private and public sectors including Thames Water, Hackney Council and Berkley Homes.
David Mooney, Regional Development Manager at LWT, who has managed the project since the beginning said: “It used to be a pretty barren wasteland; it was very much utilitarian space, you weren’t allowed in it. There were Alsatian dogs and watchmen in the evenings.
“To be sitting here, opening it to the public, having received funding from lots of different public, private and charity sectors as donors, is pretty surreal and really exciting.”
Despite being open to the public and acting as a nature reserve, the wetlands remain an acting reservoir for Thames Water.
Richard Aylard, Thames Water sustainability director, said: “Our reservoirs play a vital role in supplying drinking water to millions of customers and it’s wonderful that they can do this while also providing a haven for wildlife and a place for local people to enjoy the great outdoors, close to the heart of London.”
The aim of the project, in which 13,000 square metres of reedbed were planted, is to bring Londoners and wildlife closer together.
In a speech to volunteers and guests, Sir David said: “All we know about the natural world gives us pleasure, delight, expertise, continuous interest throughout the year – joy on many occasions and solace on sad ones.
“Knowing about the natural world and being in contact with the natural world is the most precious inheritance that human beings can have.”
The entire project came about with the help of 50 volunteers, who will continue maintaining the wetlands in the future.
Geraldine Craven, 55, local resident and volunteer said: “It’s great to see Sir David Attenborough confirming that these places are really special, and to be able to see something as great as a crested grebe courtship in the middle of London is really special.”
Woodberry Wetlands will open for year-round free public access at 9:00am today (May 1) and will be open for free visitor admission from 8am – to 5pm daily.