The 20 Best Sanctuaries For Enjoying London's Rivers

By Kirsten Downer Last edited 82 months ago
The 20 Best Sanctuaries For Enjoying London's Rivers

For London Rivers Week, Kirsten Downer of Thames 21 shares some spots where you can get up close to London's waterways, including places where rewilding projects have taken place recently.

Connect to nature at these newly rewilded river sites. There’s plenty of inspiration, from new cycle routes and green spaces for a picnic, to quiet spots to watch wildlife on your lunch break. Click on the map or scroll down to find out more about each spot.

1. Beam Parklands

A huge (13 hectare) nature oasis in east London full of habitats including grassland, fenland and woodland.  Explore the River Beam and Wantz Stream via 8km of foot and cycle paths.

2. Beverley Brook, Richmond Park

A stretch of this river is now rewilded. It's been released from its man-made straight channel to flow naturally through Richmond Park. Its gravel bed has been cleaned of silt, and it attracts a variety of minibeasts and fish.

3. Deptford Creek, Greenwich & Lewisham

Bring your binoculars — you’ll often find sandmartins nesting and raising their young on a new sandbank at this spot where the Ravensbourne meets the Thames.

4. Firs Farm Wetlands, Winchmore Hill

This wetland area covers more than 700 acres and has brought a lost river, the Moore Brook, back to the surface. Admire the trees and wildflower meadow from the footpath and cycle path.

5. Glenbrook Wetlands, Salmons Brook Catchment, Enfield

Six new linked wetland basins have helped clean up the Glenbrook; a tributary of the Salmons Brook, which runs into the Lea. The beautiful wetlands have massively cut pollutants and are well-visited by dragonflies.

6. Grovelands Park Wetlands, Salmons Brook Catchment

Watch a once-buried stream meander its way through woodland; this stretch of the Salmons Brook has been ‘daylighted’ so it can attract wildlife to Grovelands Park. A reedbed has also been created in one end of the lake, and new wetlands have appeared for visitors to explore.

7. Lordship Recreation Ground, Tottenham

Visit this new landscape created by bringing the lost River Moselle above ground; 400m of meandering river, backwaters and a patchwork of floodplain habitats. There's also a community eco-building, café, theatre space and off-road bike track.

8. Mayes Brook, Mayes Brook Park, Barking & Dagenham

Visit the UK’s first Climate Change Park and see the rewilded Mayes Brook, which winds its way through the heart of the park — it used to be hidden behind metal fencing. Look for fish resting in its backwaters and explore the hectare of additional native woodland.

9. Project Reedbed, Lee Navigation

Birdwatchers and nature lovers will find this an interesting place. This network of reedbeds along the Lee Navigation, in a highly urbanised area, not only enhances the wildlife habitat but is bringing greenery to the waterway.

10. River Crane, Causeway Open Space

In spring the gravel beds of this new River Crane backwater are black with spawning minnows. The backwater is helping the River Crane reconnect with its floodplain, as well as providing a great pit stop for fish, and a place for Londoners to take a breath.

11. River Hogsmill Connectivity Project

Fish need to commute, just like humans do; in London, they need to swim from the Thames and up the tributaries. But weirs, bridge footings and other barriers get in their way. This project has removed 11 of 16 of these barriers on the Hogsmill, making it much more fish-friendly. By the end of the project, fish will be able to commute from Kingston to Ewell without interruption.

12. River Hogsmill Open Spaces

A 500m stretch of river in the Hogsmill Local Nature Reserve has been turned into a haven for fish. Few places in the Hogsmill had been available to fish to live, because the area has been heavily developed in the past 50 years. Volunteers have played a huge part in making changes.

13. River Pool, Linear Park, Lewisham

Once upon a time this river looked like a pond — it had been so straightened and widened. Nowadays it flows like a real river, and new plants are colonising its edges. Stand at the edge of the clearer, flowing water and enjoy the views over Linear Park.

14. River Ravensbourne, Ladywell Fields, Lewisham

Go paddling in a sun-dappled river, meandering through meadows and visited by kingfishers – all within zone 3.

15. River Thames, Greenwich Peninsula

City estuaries have lost most of their natural habitats. But here in Greenwich, reeds, sea aster and other saltmarsh plants have returned to the estuary shoreline,  attracting wildlife and boosting flood defences.

16. River Wandle, Carshalton, Butter Hill

Watch brown trout swimming in a clear chalk stream – within London.  The work carried out on this stretch of the Wandle won it the 2016 UK River Prize and it’s acknowledged to be the healthiest stretch of water in London.

17. River Wandle, Wandle Park, Croydon

Lie down on the river valley slopes and enjoy the bubbling sounds of a clear chalk stream as it meanders across the beautiful Wandle Park in Croydon.

18. River Wandle, Wandsworth Riverside Quarter

For the first time in many years, you can get close to the spot where the River Wandle meets the Thames. This old industrial site has been rewilded as part of a new development in the area.

19. Yeading Brook, Yeading Meadows, Hillingdon

The Yeading Brook is now a bubbling stream once more, bathed in sunlight when the sun comes out. Watch its recovery continue as aquatic plants spread, making the most of the increased light levels. Look out for birds and other wildlife.

20. Woodberry Wetlands, Hackney

After being closed to the public for almost 200 years, an operational reservoir that supplies drinking water to millions of Londoners has been transformed into a place of huge biodiversity and community enjoyment.

To find out more about London's rivers, visit Thames21.

Last Updated 29 June 2017