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Secretly brilliant bits of London: Woodberry Wetlands

By Louise Schwartzkoff

In our new series 'secretly brilliant' we explore London's best bits with all the new, hidden or just straight-up amazing spots to explore this summer. First up, N16's Woodberry Wetlands:

What's all this, then?

Reed-fringed ponds and dappled woodland. Very pretty and not quite what you expect to find behind the area's urban high-rises. The Woodberry Wetlands nature reserve opened this month – a piece of peace in the city.

A nature reserve in N16?

Yep. This was once the site of an aqueduct bringing water from Hertfordshire. In 1833 the New River Company built reservoirs to quench the growing thirst of a booming population. Rich Victorians built mansions overlooking the water before the area fell from fashion. For a while there was talk of filling in the reservoirs, but a campaign by residents saved them – luckily for all the wildlife that calls these 11 hectares home. 

How much wildlife are we talking?

We spotted swans, plenty of birds flitting over the water and an almighty cloud of midges. At the opening event, Sir David Attenborough pointed out reed warblers, chiffchaffs and great crested grebes.

Is there anything else to do after getting your nature fix?

Coffee and cake? The Coal House Café serves breakfast, lunch and snacks from its kitchen in – you guessed it – an old coal house. It's a Grade II listed building previously used as a coal store for a nearby boiler house. There's also a packed programme of events planned for the coming months, ranging from birdwatching courses to sunrise breakfasts and yoga.

Woodberry Wetlands can be accessed by New River Path via Lordship Rd, N16 (nearest tube station is Manor House). Check out our guide to London's hidden gardens to find more green space in the capital.

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