11 November 2017

A bit of a shock

Now the reservoirs are officially open as Walthamstow Wetlands, there is nobody guarding the gates and you can just walk or cycle right in. It seems to have made a big difference. I've visited the reservoirs a few times over the years, and got used to being often the only person there, or the only person not fishing or having a job to do. So it's a bit of a shock to find the place suddenly full of people. The last few weekends have been spectacularly busy, the influx of urban hipsters, families with toddlers and even the odd bird watcher drawn by the opening publicity, and perhaps the sense that the site was a bit of a secret until now. In reality there was nothing to stop people visiting before, just a £1 admission fee to pay (except the ban on under-eights obviously put off the young family contingent). I think very few people either knew they could get in or thought it worthwhile visiting. Now with two additional entrances, it's easier to get in and I have to admit, it's also more tempting. I was expecting something much more regimented, like the smart new walkway where you enter the site from Forest Road. But that is the only place where visitors are confined to a walkway, and the rest of the site still has the character of a working reservoir with very little in the way of intrusive barriers and notices.

Passing the untidy billboards on Forest Road near the entrance.

The site is unfinished and today there are many signs that things are still being worked on, things being put in place and maybe strategies being developed. The engine house is finished but the Coppermill is still a construction site. There are photocopied signs taped up asking people not to run or cycle except on the designated concrete track. The old rusty bridge is still rusty but it has a nicely-designed new handrail bolted to it. Bits of old machinery, unrestored, are dumped anyhow on the grass next to the engine house. Big concrete blocks sit among the trackside weeds here and there, awaiting their proper place. Next to the cafe, temporary rope barriers and cones block off a big expanse of bare soil to give new grass a chance to grow. Bedraggled wildlife illustrations in plastic sleeves are flapping in the breeze along the cycle track. There are no bins except the big ones at the entrances - will that work? I rather like all this, and for this visit I want to focus on photographing that rather than the birds and empty expanses of grass and water.

The new walkway...

...with holes in the metal deck for trees to grow through.

The old brick railway viaduct was replaced with this concrete structure a few years ago.

The engine house, the showpiece of the new visitor infrastructure.

Unnecessarily bright bollards...

...and various temporary barriers.

Smart new railings by the new cafe contrast with old steel barriers.

Work on the Copper Mill is still being finished but you can just make out the new lift that will give access to the open viewing deck.

There are two electricity pylons on the site. This one in particular is known as a perch for peregrine falcons.