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Middlesex Filter Beds

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MIDDLESEX FILTER BEDS NATURE RESERVE is an area of semi-natural habitats west of the River Lea in East London at Clapton. The site is owned by Thames Water but leased to the Lee Valley Regional Park. It is part of the Lea Valley Sites of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation (SMI).

Address: Lea Bridge Road, London E5 (Map:; OS grid reference TQ359864; nearest postcode E5 9RB)

History Edit

In 1852, three years after London’s worst cholera outbreak and the consequent demand for cleaner, safer water, the East London Waterworks Company constructed the six Middlesex filter beds to remove impurities from the River Lea and provide the surrounding areas with water of improved quality. In later years the filter beds were augmented by another 19, seven of which are now the WaterWorks Nature Reserve (formerly Essex Filter Beds). In total, the site produced an average daily supply of 42.5 million gallons of water. In 1969, after over 100 years in operation, the Middlesex Filter Beds had become outdated and were replaced by the new Coppermills Water Treatment Works in Walthamstow. Thames Water became responsible for the beds in 1974, by which time nature had already taken over and wildlife had begun to colonise the abandoned site. Since 1988 the site has been leased to the Regional Park, which has since managed it as a wildlife reserve.

Habitat Edit

Each disused filter bed is managed to provide a variety of habitats for wildlife including open water, reed beds and wet woodland.  The value of the site for wildlife is increased by the nearness of other open spaces such as Walthamstow Marsh, Hackney Marshes and the adjacent WaterWorks Nature Reserve.

Species Edit

BIRDS  More than 60 different species have been recorded at the site including Snipe, Reed Warbler, Firecrest and Sparrowhawk. 

OTHER VERTEBRATES  The wetland areas are ideal for amphibians such as toads, frogs and newts, all of which breed here.

INVERTEBRATES  A variety of damselflies and dragonflies are also common throughout the summer months.

Practicalities Edit

DIRECTIONS  Car parking is available at the Lee Valley Ice Centre  There is access on foot from River Lee Navigation Towpath. The site is on Section 13 of the Capital Ring. The nearest railway station is Clapton Station (1.1 km), on the National Rail line from Liverpool Street to Chingford. Bus routes 48 (London Bridge to Walthamstow Central), 55 (Oxford Circus to Leyton) and 56 (St Bartholomew's Hospital to Whipps Cross) pass close to the site along Lea Bridge Road. 

Park (free) at the Lee Valley Ice Centre in Lea Bridge Road. Cross the busy road safely at the pedestrian crossing and turn right. Walk past the waterworks depot, over the bridge then immediately take the cobbled slope next to the Princess of Wales public house down to the towpath.  Walk along the towpath until you come to the reserve sign. The entrance is a few yards further on. ACCESS The site is unlocked 8.30am and locked up about 4.30 (April), the nearby WaterWorks is locked  much earlier at 3.30pm  

FACILITIES  None, but Cafe in Golf Centre at WaterWorks 


This information has been cobbled together from various internet sources by someone who has never visited the site but thinks that it deserves a page on the London Bird Club Wiki. If you are familiar with the site, please correct, expand and/or update this information. Please!

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