Sir David Attenborough praised the London Wildlife Trust’s nature reserve Woodberry Wetlands for reversing the decline of species in an area of natural beauty which is now open to the public for the first time in 200 years.
The site, which is located next to the soon-to-be open Walthamstow Wetlands is now home to prioroty species such as Cetti’s warbler, reed bunting, song thrush and kingfisher, which have been encouraged to breed with the creation of reed beds planted around the reservoirs.
Opening the site on 30 April, Attenborough said he had spent the last 70 years of his career in the natural world dealing with endangered species and losing land, and how to prevent further catastrophies.
He said: “We are losing so much that is precious, so it’s marvellous being here seeing the reverse and seeing things get better.
“We should celebrate that, and we should certainly thank the people that are responsible.”
Woodberry Wetlands is situated on the site of Stoke Newington East Reservoir, which is owned by Thames Water and actively pumps water into Londoners’ homes after being cleaned at the treatment plant at Coppermill, Walthamstow.
London Wildlife Trust has been preparing the site for six years with the help of a team of dedicated volunteers and funding from Heritage Lottery Fund, Hackney Council and Berkeley Homes, among others.
Attenborough said: “Contact with the natural world is not a luxury. Of course it is a huge pleasure. Of course it is a huge delight.
“But it is actually a necessity for all of us.
“Knowing about the natural world and being in contact with the natural world is one of the most precious inheritances a human being can have.”
Now an area abundant with wildlife, the reservoirs were once disinfected with chlorine and sodium phosphate gas, killing off existing species and preventing the natural world from flourishing. Since 1980, no toxic chemicals have been added to the reservoirs, allowing nature to once again take hold.
The site is now a haven for bats, amphibians, dragonflies and the rare red-eyed damselfly, and it is hoped that the project will encourage declining birds such as the water rail, little ringed plover, snipe and bittern. The once rare great crested grebe, with its beautiful courtship dance, can be found here in London.
Attenborough said: “This is part of our heritage. This is what makes life important and worth living. This is a source of joy and solace that anyone can have.
“This is a great day. Long may it be remembered.”