The East London Garden Society

Sir David Attenborough opens Woodberry Wetlands Nature Reserve

“Contact with nature is our birthright”, says veteran broadcaster, as land sealed off for nearly two centuries is finally opened to the public.

Sir David Attenborough was the guest of honour at the opening of a new nature reserve next to the redeveloped Woodberry Down council estate.

The land immediately surrounding the Stoke Newington East Reservoir, now rechristened Woodberry Wetlands, had been sealed off from the public for nearly two centuries but had long been considered prime real estate by birds like herons and grebes, along with other creatures such as bats and great crested newts.

Now, thanks to a £1.5 million project by the London Wildlife Trust, a new café and visitors centre have opened, a boardwalk has been constructed and the place has been spruced up with jazzy interpretative information boards to teach people about the reservoir's history and wildlife.

Volunteers from the Trust have also enhanced the habitat that was already there by creating new reed beds and ponds and putting up nest boxes, and it is hoped rare species such as the bittern ‐ a migratory heron that lives in fens and marshland ‐ will soon be putting in an appearance.

On the day of the opening, cettis warblers could be heard stridently singing as reed warblers muttered in the vegetation, perhaps a sign of the renaissance to come.

Asked by the Hackney Citizen how the inner city oasis compared with some of the far flung natural havens he has visited, Sir David said that just because a place was densely populated did not mean wildlife could not flourish there and contact with nature was people’s birthright.

“It‘s not a luxury, you know” he said. “If it isn’t there, it’s a great deprivation, and if it is, it’s what human beings deserve. We are part of the natural world.”

Photograph by Victoria Seabrook (2016)