The WWT London Wetland Centre is a wetland reserve managed by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in the Barnes area of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, southwest London. I had some Tesco Clubcard Days Out tokens to use, so decided to pay it a visit.
The WWT is a conservation charity with a focus on saving and preserving wetlands, which are havens for wildlife and essential to our ecosystem. There are several wetland centres throughout the country. I actually grew up pretty near the Washington centre, so have visited it several times; this is the first time, however, that I have visited the London site.
I got the bus to the centre (several buses run nearby, from Hammersmith and White City) and walked up to the entrance. The first thing I spotted, in a pond close by, was a statue of Peter Scott. He founded the WWT in 1946: the first site was at Slimbridge and even then was open to the public. (Incidentally, Peter was the son of polar explorer Robert Falcon Scott. In his last letter to his wife Kathleen, Scott wrote of their son, “Make the boy interested in nature if you can”. Looks like that worked out pretty well).
Once I’d paid and passed through the entrance building, I found myself in a central courtyard with the observatory straight ahead, a café to my right, and two possible routes ahead of me: the West route and the South route, which curve around the main lake in the centre (a map is available online). I opted for the West route first of all.
It was a lovely day, and I enjoyed walking past the various ponds and lakes, trying to identify the various birds roaming around. This area is divided into different sections, each one based on a wetland from a different part of the world. I had fun with some of the rather random bird names – I’m particularly fond of the whistling ducks. As I walked back I realised I was just in time for the otter feeding. There are a pair of otters here, Asian short-clawed otters, and it was fun to watch them play and dive for their fish.
When I got back to the entrance I went for a cup of tea before heading down the South route. This one was much quieter, calmer and more open. I passed the bat house and had a lovely view out onto the expanse of the main wetland. I ventured into a couple of the hides, but I don’t really have the patience to sit quietly identifying birds!
A note on accessibility: the wetland was built upon the site of a defunct reservoir, so it’s pretty flat, and most of the paths are wide. The largest hide even has a lift, so overall it seems pretty accessible.
I really enjoyed my trip to the Wetland Centre. I wonder if I made a mistake coming in the late spring: I thought this would be the best time but in fact it’s in the winter when you’re more likely to see the rarer birds. The website has an interesting guide to what you might be able to see each season, as well as lots of interesting facts about wetlands and wildlife.
Entrance is pretty pricey, but it’s all for a good cause, and if you use Clubcard tokens like me it’s a bargain. Recommended.
Address: Queen Elizabeth’s Walk, Barnes, London SW13 9WT
Opening Hours: 9.30am-5.30pm summer, 9.30am-4.30pm winter
Prices: £13.49 adults, £10.09 concessions, £7.42 children 4-16, under 4s free. Slightly cheaper prices are available without Gift Aid.