WWT’s London Wetland Centre - the capital’s ‘extra lung’ - turns 20 today

A pioneering project by conservation charity WWT to bring threatened wetland wildlife to the heart of London has celebrated its 20th anniversary.

London Wetland Centre, a beautiful network of shallow pools and wetland meadows for birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles and insects, opened its doors to the public in 2000. At the time it was the largest man-made wetland in any capital city of the world, attracting both wildlife and people.

Today, the reserve, in Barnes, South West London is an ecological oasis, teaming with biodiversity, boasting 2,399 wildlife species, across 47 hectares of land. David Attenborough, who opened the reserve, called it ‘London’s extra lung’.

Kevin Peberdy, Chief Operating Officer, oversaw the project from beginning to end. He said:

“The London Wetland Centre demonstrates how quickly wildlife can bounce back when given the chance.

“Who would have thought that Cetti’s warbler, bearded tits, shoveler, grebes, water vole and even bittern - once extinct in the UK – can now be found in the centre of one of the busiest cities on the planet?

“Thankfully, other countries with built up cities have taken notice and now London Wetland Centre has become a blueprint for urban wetlands around the world. Since its creation, we’ve helped support the creation of inner city wetlands in places like China, Hong Kong and Dubai.”

The wetland centre was built from four disused Victorian Thames Water reservoirs. In 1995 the reservoirs were broken up and 500,000 cubic metres of soil sorted and remixed.

During the next five years over 300,000 water plants, 8000 wild flowers and 27,000 trees were planted by hand. 600m of boardwalk and 3.4km of pathway were laid before the centre opened on 26 May 2000.

Within two years of opening, London Wetland Centre was awarded Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) status, owing to the emergence of an impressive number of wintering shoveler and gadwall ducks.

The creation of London Wetland Centre has reversed the fortunes of many wetland species in the area while providing residents a place to escape the pace of city life.

The project was completed in partnership with Berkeley Homes and Thames Water.

Due to current restrictions, the site is currently being maintained by a skeleton staff, but plans are underway for a safe, gradual re-opening when the Government gives the go-ahead.

Please visit wwt.org.uk/london for more information.