Walthamstow Wetlands

The Walthamstow Reservoirs is a 211-hectare site within the Lea Valley Green belt. The site previously had limited access and was surrounded by neighbourhoods with deficient access to nature. The aim was to open up the Wetlands to public access whilst protecting a sensitive nature reserve with SSSI, SPA and Ramsar status and accommodating the operational requirements of Thames Water.

KLA were lead consultants for all design stages delivered over 5 years. The team was multidisciplinary, combining diverse skills such as landscape architecture, architecture, urban realm, ecology etc. KLA also led the successful application to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The initial stages of the project involved bringing site owners Thames Water and London Borough of Waltham Forest together over a shared vision. Other stakeholders such as Thames Water Fisheries, The Environment Agency, London Wildlife Trust and Natural England were also heavily involved in the project steering group.

Opening up the Wetlands has been significant due to the large amount of associated health, well-being, educational, ecological and economic benefits. Today the wetlands is integral in the Lea Valley network, reducing the deficiency in access to nature of surrounding neighbourhoods and drawing visitors from the whole of London and beyond. The amount of footfall has so far reached 3 times the initial predication, in a third of the time. While drawing a vast amount of people into the site, the industrial heritage and ecology of the site have been conserved and managed, including key habitats which have European significance for migrating birds. A recent Habitat regulations survey of protected species shows that the species remain unaffected by the large amount visitors since November 2018. Today, a unique landscape has evolved - one where you can see reservoirs of drinking water that supply London and learn about sustainability and ecology, while experiencing a vast landscape with industrial heritage and a strong community presence. Unifying these complex requirements through design is the key significance of this project.

The Lea Valley in Tottenham Hale and Blackhorse Road are undergoing significant residential intensification. We responded to this opportunity of growth by providing a new kind of landscape for the city. The design innovation is grounded in the ability to knit together the unique and at times conflicting objectives such as heritage conservation, increased access and engagement, and protecting bird species. In order to accommodate these objectives KLA recognized the need for layers of access to the site. We based the design around a green core, providing new entrances and a year-round single route allowing cycle and pedestrian access to the wider Lea Valley network. Building on this there are a series of routes and entrances which open and close depending on ecological sensitivities. We pursued ecological strategies such as planting the site with new species such as song bird thicket that protect views from the reservoirs to visitors, reducing bird disturbance.

The scale of space opened up to public access is remarkable in London. The team successfully navigated the complexities of the site, clients, and funding groups to create a seamless integration of Architecture and Landscape. KLA has embraced the unique character of the site by reusing industrial remnants and building on existing materials, and enhancing the habitats. While diversifying habitats and accommodating operational requirements of Thames water, KLA has also managed to mitigate the effects of the large increase in access and use. The Wetlands have become a vibrant public space which encourages learning and experiencing wildlife, reaching neighboring communities and visitors from afar. The Wetland site also promotes sustainable travel by encouraging visitors to cycle, walk or use public transport to access the site.


  • Project Name

    Walthamstow Wetlands

  • Location

    Walthamstow Reservoirs, Lea Valley

  • Category

    Coastal, waterways and wetlands

  • Landscape Architect

    Kinnear Landscape Architects Limited

  • Client

    London Borough of Waltham Forest

  • Brief

    The shared vision and ambition of the partners was to create a distinctive urban wetland nature reserve and centre for learning in an unprecedented scale in London and one of the capital’s most densely and diversely populated areas. The over-arching aims were to: - Create free public access to the Wetlands and the opportunity to learn about and appreciate the site’s natural and industrial heritage; - Create a framework for conserving, managing and enhancing the site’s heritage creating a legacy for future generations; - Create strategic connections with adjoining areas; and - Maximise the opportunity for economic renewal, social cohesion, quality of life and improved health and well being

  • Awards

    Finalist, Landscape Institute Awards 2019


  • Project Team

    Project Team: Lead consultant/ Landscape Architect: Kinnear Landscape Architects Chief Author: Lynn Kinnear Other members: Ben Smith, Katie LaTouche Architect: Witherford Watson Mann Project Manager:Jackson Coles Ecology Consultant: BSG Ecology Civil and Structural Engineering: Entuitive Reedbed Engineering: Ramboll UK Quantity Surveyor: Cinns Business Planning: Counter Culture Services and Drainage: P3R Access Consultants: People Friendly Design Highways Engineers: Project Centre Contamination/Environmental Services: Capita Symonds Wayfinding and Interpretation: Polimekanos Curator: Steven Swaby Exhibition Design: Real studios Lighting Design: Studio Dekka

  • Local planning authority or government body

    Waltham Forest Council

  • Year Completed


  • Project Size

    211 ha

  • Contract Value


  • Kinnear Landscape Architects Limited

  • Approximate Map Location


    Walthamstow Reservoirs, Lea Valley

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