Wetland Wanders: 5 Amazing Wildlife Spots In London

Three little children feeding the ducks at the Wetlands.

If you’re looking for an educational family day out that doesn’t involve hanging around indoors, then London’s splendid nature reserves are just the thing. It’s remarkable just how much diversity can be found in these wetland habitats, from water voles to rare migratory birds. Autumn is a great time to visit -- you’re less likely to get sunburned and the diminishing foliage makes wildlife spotting all the easier. Here are five exceptional sites around the capital.

London Wetland Centre

Aerial view of the London Wetland Centre.
Image © London Wetland Centre

London Wetland Centre celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2020. This former set of reservoirs in Barnes, West London, is now a thriving wildlife habitat. It’s a wonderful 100 acres to explore with children, featuring long boardwalks, hides, educational centres and even an otter enclosure. The wetlands are a particularly good place for bird-spotting, with several nesting species found nowhere else in London. Look out for bitterns, kingfishers and lapwings, among many others. Note, parking is limited and Hammersmith Bridge is currently closed to traffic.

Rainham Marshes

Over in the east, Rainham Marshes spans the Thames-side land where London merges into Essex. This RSPB nature reserve is a former Ministry of Defence firing range, and you can still see some of the concrete infrastructure dotted throughout the wetlands. At well over 1,000 acres, this is one of the largest nature reserves in the south-east -- so be sure to bring scooters. The walking routes contain regular hides, with a chance to see some truly rare birds -- despite the occasional roar of a passing Eurostar train. The site includes parking, a cafe and visitor centre.

Walthamstow Wetlands 

London’s newest wetland centre opened in October 2017. A series of nature trails curl around the 10 operational reservoirs that have long dominated the area. Walk or cycle your way around the 500 acre site, which is free to enter. Besides a bevy of wildlife, Walthamstow Wetlands also has a cafe and visitor centre, sites of architectural interest and a small car park. The nearby Walthamstow Marshes are also worth a wander, with a wilder, less-managed landscape, and the site of the first all-British aircraft flight (by AV Roe).

Woodberry Wetlands

Woodberry is a much smaller site than the others on this list, offering a more intimate brush with nature. The park opened in 2016 on a former chlorinated reservoir that once held little wildlife. Today, the wetlands are overseen by London Wildlife Trust, and can be found between Manor House and Stoke Newington. It’s an unusual space, surrounded by tower blocks -- but the stark contrast of the urban and the natural adds to the character. The site is free to visit, and includes a small cafe in a grade II-listed coal house.

River Lee Country Park

The author and his daughter on a giant hair at River Lee Country Park.
Image © The author

A bit of a cheat, as it’s just outside the Greater London boundary, but the River Lee Country Park is one of our favourite family days out. The sprawling site includes endless waterways, rolling meadows, a huge diversity of plants and mature trees, stuff for kids to clamber over, a disc golf course, curious sculptures and much more besides. While you’re in the area, consider a visit to the White Water Centre (if the family is into that kind of thing), or check out the supposed burial site of King Harold in Waltham Abbey. Sadly, the adjacent Gunpowder mills remain closed until 2021, but are certainly worth putting on your bucket list for when the time comes. Get to the country park either via Cheshunt or Waltham Cross Overground stations, or use one of the car parks.



At Kidadl we pride ourselves on offering families original ideas to make the most of time spent together at home or out and about, wherever you are in the world. We strive to recommend the very best things that are suggested by our community and are things we would do ourselves - our aim is to be the trusted friend to parents.

We try our very best, but cannot guarantee perfection. We will always aim to give you accurate information at the date of publication - however, information does change, so it’s important you do your own research, double-check and make the decision that is right for your family.

Kidadl provides inspiration to entertain and educate your children. We recognise that not all activities and ideas are appropriate and suitable for all children and families or in all circumstances. Our recommended activities are based on age but these are a guide. We recommend that these ideas are used as inspiration, that ideas are undertaken with appropriate adult supervision, and that each adult uses their own discretion and knowledge of their children to consider the safety and suitability.

Kidadl cannot accept liability for the execution of these ideas, and parental supervision is advised at all times, as safety is paramount. Anyone using the information provided by Kidadl does so at their own risk and we can not accept liability if things go wrong.

Sponsorship & Advertising Policy

Kidadl is independent and to make our service free to you the reader we are supported by advertising.

We hope you love our recommendations for products and services! What we suggest is selected independently by the Kidadl team. If you purchase using the buy now button we may earn a small commission. This does not influence our choices. Please note: prices are correct and items are available at the time the article was published.

Kidadl has a number of affiliate partners that we work with including Amazon. Please note that Kidadl is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.

We also link to other websites, but are not responsible for their content.

Read our Sponsorship & Advertising Policy
Get The Kidadl Newsletter

1,000 of inspirational ideas direct to your inbox for things to do with your kids.

Thank you! Your newsletter will be with you soon.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
No items found.