London Drum

WWT London Wetland Centre – Nature Reserve for Birds

London Wetland Centre
Where? London Wetland Centre, Queen Elizabeth’s Walk, Barnes · Web: Opening times? 9.30 AM to 5.30 PM (Mon-Sun, Apr-Jun); 9.30 AM to 6 PM (Mon-Sun, Jul-Aug); 9.30 AM to 5 PM (Mon-Sun, Sep-Oct); Last entry 1 hour before closing Visiting hours may change Price? Adults £15.50; Children £9.50 (4-16); Infants free entry (under-4); Family ticket £41.50 Entry charges may change Time required? A typical visit is 3-4½ hours (including travel time to/from london) Trains: Barnes, Putney Bridge Train fares

Craig’s review… If you don’t mind walking around in the wind and rain for two hours then try the London Wetland Centre. They’re returning the place to nature so it’s not quite a park and it’s not quite a zoo: it’s 105 acres of wet grass, marshes and reed-beds, all fed by a bend of the River Thames.

The WWT London Wetland CentrePhoto: Craig Cross

There are two walking routes and they both loop back to the cafe for a cup of tea so it doesn’t matter which one you start with. When you push open the Jurassic Park-style gateway for the very first time you feel like you’re entering a safari park with it’s ten-foot high fence protected by chains and chicken wire and big signs up shouting: “Shut the gate! Don’t let the animals out!”

WaterfallPhoto: Craig Cross

You don’t have to go very far before you’re into the wilds and if the weather is grey like today then it can even seem desolate. You can literally be walking around for fifteen minutes and not see a soul, it’s just you and the noises that nature makes. You might think that it’s quiet but if you stop and have a listen then it’s a never-ending cacophony of strange squawks, cheeps and tweets.

Peacock Tower & Hadley Birdwatching Hide

Peacock Tower birdwatching hidePhoto: Craig Cross
Peacock Tower birdwatching hide

If you’re here for the birds then you’ll want to make straight for the hides. The best one is the Peacock Tower which has a 360-degree view across the whole of the wetlands but it’s very shush like a library inside, very quiet and very serious, and I’m guessing that some of the twitchers must sit here all day. Every now and then there’ll be a frisson of excitement as they start pointing fingers out of the window and scribbling names into their notebook, and then they’ll unwrap a flattened ham sandwich and unscrew their thermos flask for a celebratory sip of tea.

Inside the Peacock Tower birdwatching hidePhoto: Craig Cross
Inside the Peacock Tower

You have to provide your own viewing equipment at the Peacock Tower so that’s why I recommend the homely little Hadley Hide instead. This one has big windows and sofa seats and a couple of free telescopes to look through. You can even flick through some of the birdwatching books that are tethered to a bench on frayed bits of string. And check out that whiteboard on the wall where people document all the species they’ve seen that day.

Inside the Haldey birdwatching hidePhoto: Craig Cross
Inside the Hadley birdwatching hide

They’ve got gadwells, wagtails, wigeons, pigeons and teals; moorhens and coots in their black suits and shoes, pochards with their big ginger hairdos, and military mallards with their air force stripes and green marine berets. Then there’s your sand martins, shovelers, bitterns and grebes; cormorants, kestrels, herons and cranes; avocets and eiders, pintails and terns (they all look like ducks to me). If you’re lucky then you might spot a few lapwings and a kingfisher.

Main observatory by the Discovery CentrePhoto: Craig Cross
Main observatory by the Discovery Centre

WWF & Dulverton Birdwatching Hide

The WWF and Dulverton hides are a bit dark and cold with no telescopes, no books, just a few pews and slit windows to look through. I ended up sitting in there for half-an-hour just staring at the cold lake and diamond formation of ducks flying overhead.

Egyptian geesePhoto: Craig Cross
Egyptian geese

This is how I would sum the place up: if you’re into birdwatching then you will definitely love the hides. They’ve also got a decent shop full of birding books and equipment. But if you want to see some flowers then you’re better off going to Wisley or Kew because the only colour here is green.

Worth a visit? Value for money? Good for kids? Easy to get to?

I also recommend… If you enjoy this then try London Zoo

London Squire bookThe owns and has spent the last decade reviewing the capital’s landmarks, attractions and hotels. His guidebook is available from Amazon. This review was updated on

Your comments and questions

fran Hi, what is the best bus for London Wetland Centre please

Craig Hi Fran. The 485 stops at the London Wetland Centre itself (except on Sundays), whilst the 33, 419 and 209 all stop about 100 metres away

HLane Is there a car park

Craig Hi HLane. Yes, they have a free car park for visitors

Ian Brown CBE Fabulous place, always enjoy visiting by train from Greenwich. As an older visitor the last time was very upsetting getting stranded in the middle of the road at the signalled crossing with no pedestrian phase. I cannot believe the local council do not recognise that people will want to travel sustainably to such a significant visitor centre. Are they trying to discourage visitors by making access dangerous when all that is needed is a pedestrian phase? Will drive in future. Ian Brown CBE.

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