An £8.7 million Visitor Centre designed to open up access to one of the East End’s ‘open-air lungs’ has been completed at a strategic 500-acre Thames Water site. The Walthamstow Wetlands project allows visitors to enjoy and learn about the Walthamstow Reservoirs’ distinctive built and natural heritage, which is unique in London.
As the area includes water treatment stations and other operational sites, it needed protection to separate public areas from Critical National Infrastructure zones, for which Thames Water ordered security fencing through Binns Fencing.
Binns has installed ArmaWeave, HiSec and Axiom steel mesh from parent company Zaun around strategic Thames Water assets, while Duo fencing, sliding gates and railings have been included at all main entrances. Oak Habitat gates and post-and-wire fencing provide a more natural boundary to non-secure areas.
The principal contractor on the project was London-based construction company Rooff, a family-run business with a track record stretching back 100 years.
The area’s distinctive nature stems from the site’s importance as a historic operational landscape that supplies drinking water to London, and its rich biodiversity, which is of international importance for water birds.
The concept is to create a ‘green core’ of naturalised landscape at the heart of the reservoir complex with a generous pathway through the centre of the site and connecting to the strategic pedestrian and cycle route through the middle of the Lee Valley.
The project was designed by architect Witherford Watson Mann and landscape architect KLA, with engineer P3r and TALL, consultant Studio Dekka and collaborating organisation Counterculture also involved.
The reservoirs’ importance as a potential nature reserve was recognised as early as 1945 by Professor Patrick Abercrombie, who said: “A series of great reservoirs [is] acquiring a charm of [its] own as trees grow around them and on their little islands. They are becoming nature reserves for large numbers of birds and the resort of privileged fisherman. These areas are a great open-air lung to the crowded East End and their preservation is essential. Every piece of open land should be welded into a great regional reservation.”