Walthamstow Wetlands

Sunday 27 March 2022 – Walthamstow, London.

It was Eleanor and my first walk together that wasn’t just a pre-work walk round the block or trip to the supermarket since we arrived back in the UK a month ago. The plan was to walk down through Walthamstow Market (mostly closed on Sunday) to the Marshes then walk the River Lea towpath to Ferry Lane and back home. It’s about a two hour loop if we don’t stop for lunch at the Ferry Boat Inn; which we won’t as it was awful when we ate there a couple of weeks back. They will get a chance to redeem themselves one day. That was the plan when we left home anyway.

When we arrived at the Coppermill Lane entrance to Walthamstow Wetlands we decided to walk there instead. It’s a slightly shorter walk, but there’s a nice café for coffee, and we took the opportunity for an unplanned and early lunch too. It seemed the right thing to do.

The wetlands were opened to the public in October 2017 and are a 211 hectare collection of ten reservoirs providing water to London. The reservoirs were built over a fifty year period from 1853 to 1904 and run alongside the Lea. Sitting in the Lea Valley the wetlands are part of an important corridor for migrating birds and are very popular with the birding community. There are a number of fishing spots around the various ponds for licensed fisherfolk as well. A multi-purpose environment.

Cormorant Island from Coppermill Lane.


I love the island, it’s almost completely white with guano, it looks a lot like snow or a good frost, but imagine it doesn’t smell like either of those. The small grouping of trees are leafless in winter and sometimes the large birds can be seen in the branches. Over the years the view back drop has become more and more built up as the developments around Blackhorse Rd Station take shape. From this angle the new buildings almost mirror the shape of the trees.

Just inside the Coppermill Lane entrance is the copper mill itself, now used by Thames water and obscured by tree in this photo. There’s been a mill on this spot since the 14th century and I’m sure bits of the original still exist somewhere buried in the bowels of the building. Originally built to grind corn (the mill was powered by water from the Coppermill Stream) over the centuries the mill has been used in the manufacture of paper, gunpowder and leather. It was mostly rebuilt in 1806 and the publicly accessible viewing platform was added in 1864.


Over the road from the marshes is a much newer water treatment plant, a site that has been growing in size and complexity over the past few years and there is a lot more security as well.


The paths around, and between, the reservoirs were quite busy, it was cool but dry out and there were a few families taking the the opportunity to get the kids out. The demographic in this part of North East London has moved even further towards young middle class families over the past year, seemingly accelerating towards some form of peak gentrification. Every time we come back to Walthamstow a little bit more of the older rougher edges have been nibbled away. There is still a way to go mind, Walthamstow isn’t anywhere near being posh!


As well as families, young and old, there were huge swarms of midges, seemingly not of the biting kind as neither of us were scratching at bites later in the day, though we were constantly waving our hands in front of our faces as we walked. I remember this from when I used to cycle or run home from work along the Lea towpath, this time of year you need something to cover your mouth, nose and eyes.


I took the big camera with me, a habit I want to maintain as I’m enjoying using it immensely, though as I have previously noted (moaned probably) it’s quite heavy and not the easiest thing to carry around. I’m liking the images I get out of the very lightweight 50mm lens though so it will get lumped around a lot more for a while.

Another angle of the developments at Blackhorse Road Station. There are a bunch of new and small breweries in Blackhorse Rd, all with brew bars, and a couple with decent size music venues. It is turning into a destination now, something no-one would have said about that bit of Walthamstow ten years ago.



Developments at Tottenham Hale Station.

There is a theme to these new building projects, they are all near transport links into the city and a number of them have limited or no parking, which is obviously a good thing. When they are grouped closer together, like at Blackhorse Rd, they become less jarring and hideous. I’m fairly certain the skyline here will be a lot different in a year, and some of those gaps will be filled in.


Leaving the Wetlands we walked up Ferry Lane back to Walthamstow, walking past those new Blackhorse Rd apartment blocks, they don’t look so bad. Now.


My photography has very much drifted from rural landscapes to cityscapes and architecture over recent years. This is now being reflected in what I’m reading, with a number of books about place, cities and walking in cities (flânering) taking up space on my shelves. My place in the cities and towns I live in is constantly on my mind (in a good way) and I’m enjoying taking photos again, I’m getting less frustrated with the perceived lack of opportunity to get out and take photos now I’m interested in my more immediate surroundings. Let’s face it I’m a city kid adult.