On Sunday I made an exciting expedition Woodberry Wetlands, one of two reservoirs to be found just north east of Finsbury Park and now a wildlife park managed by the London Wildlife Trust. Hampstead Heath is wonderful, but so nice to venture further afield just occasionally.
The area was originally field and meadow land, running alongside the New River which brought clean water from chalk streams in Hertforshire. But in the 1830s the two reservoirs were built to provide water to the growing towns of Stoke Newington and Stamford Hill nearby, prompting an early ‘stockbroker belt’ development of large houses with gardens backing onto the river and overlooking the reservoirs. Many of these gradually fell into disrepair, especially during the two world wars and in the early 1950s the land along the northern side of the reservoir was compulsorily purchased to build housing for the slum dwellers of the inner city. The development was hailed as a great social housing success. As part of the development the reservoirs were treated with chlorine and sodium gas to ‘clean’ the water.
As with so many of the Utopian housing developments of the post war period, the estate was not well maintained and by the early ’90s it was in a sad state of disrepair. The reservoirs were put up for sale, the proposal being that they should be filled in and built over. However, after a long but eventually successful campaign by local residents, the idea was abandoned. The chlorine and sodium were phased out, wildlife started to return to the waters and, in 2016, the east reservoir was opened to the public as a wild life park under the management of the London Wildlife Trust.
Meanwhile, with the turn of the century came another massive housing regeneration scheme…..
…and once again, the banks of the New River are absolutely THE place to live.
(With thanks to the History page of the London Wildlife Trust for all that information.)
However, it is not just people who are flocking to New River – it also has an extremely healthy population of ducks, moorhens and swans – all of whom were out on Sunday with their new families meeting and greeting each other – and indeed us.
Here first of all are three very adventurous little brown ducklings with their mum.
(If you want to see the videos you will need to click onto the blog as the email notification does not include the video.)
And then here are some even tinier fluff ball ducklings bobbing down into the water and positively bouncing up out of it again. And then, stately and serene, the swan family. Mother, father and five cygnets, gliding in single file down the middle of the river accepting tribute from all.
And finally for now (there are more to come) – a fleeting view of a cormorant right up by the river barrier, obviously very intent on finding something from the constant dipping of his head. I am sorry it is such a brief view but, unlike the ducklings and the swans, he had not got the message about playing to the cameras.
My daily blog now has an Instagram account! WalksonHampsteadHeath – the idea being to widen the circle of people who might enjoy a daily ramble across the heath. Please follow us and pass on the news!!
If you would like to get a notification of each new post, please ‘subscribe’ in the box on the right. It is very easy to ‘unsubscribe’ you if you get bored! You will get an email asking you to confirm your subscription but if it does not appear, check your junk box.