The Netherlands is known for its beautiful flat, water-rich natural landscapes where you can enjoy cycling and walking and which are easily accessible from the city. Something we often did when we were still living in Rotterdam. With the bike from our house towards the polders or a walk along the Rotte, where we lived in the neighborhood. Lara has always enjoyed it, especially because of the many different birds and other wild animals that you can spot in those areas.
Once in London I experience something different, fortunately there are many parks that you can visit and where you can walk. But these places can also be crowded with locals and tourists, especially during sunny days. The countryside outside of London, on the other hand, offers a bit more space and wilderness. But if you are dependent on public transport in London with a toddler during the week than it’s not easy to access. But then we discovered something else: the WWT London Wetland Centre, less than 30 minutes away by buss from our house.
WWT London Wetland Centre is a nature reserve managed by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in the Barnes area of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, southwest London, England. The Wildfowl and Wetlands is one of the world’s leading institutions for science and nature conservation. Wetlands are the primary source of drinking water for humans and animals in the wild. They also connect us with nature, and with ourselves, through beautiful landscapes and inspiring encounters with animals in the wild.
In 2012, the London Wetland Center was voted the favorite nature reserve of Great Britain in the BBC Countryfile Magazine Awards. The center covers more than 40 hectares of land that was previously inhabited by various small reservoirs. These were transformed in May 2000 into a wide range of wetlands and habitats before the center was opened. It was the first urban project of its kind in the United Kingdom. Many birds that have now found their home in the center can not be found anywhere else in London.
With a map in our pocket, Lara and I chose to explore this special place on our own. The park has a Western and Southern Route that you can do well within a day. Via walk bridges you walk between the lakes and pools where you can find the most beautiful birds and other animals in the wild.
Don’t forget your binoculars when you visit on of the observatories with glass walls. Here you can enjoy a panoramic view of the lakes and watch other unique birds. You can also take part in organized walks from the center under the guidance of expert guides.
The area is beautifully maintained and decorated and very accessible to visit with children. There are also excursions especially for the smallest, they can play in the ‘Explore adventure playground‘ and the park offers educational programs for schools.
Although this is a big nature reserve, you do have the feeling that you walk through a park. Because of the way how it’s decorated and the many activities you can do. It has become a bit of an attraction, but luckily it does not seem to go at the cost of the natural environment and its inhabitants. It’s still quiet and the visitors are nature lovers with respect for the environment. Admission is not free, but with your ticket you contribute financially to this beautiful project.
Very special to have this nature reserve that close from where we now live in London. Secretly I even got the feeling to be back in the Netherlands for a moment. With this water-rich flat landscape. Like I was walking through Kinderdijk, the Biesbosch or along the Rotte, where I lived before. In the end it gave me, besides some peace, space and recreation, also a familiar feeling that I probably had unknowingly missed since our move. But it felt good.
Want to know more about this beautiful nature reserve in London or plan a visit? Then take a look at the website of The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust.