Skip to content

Water Park could bring rare birds to east London, say campaigners

By deliar
6th April 2023

A water park adapted for wild swimming in north east London will become a haven for wildlife – and could attract rare birds, say campaigners.

In their March update, supporters of the East London Waterworks Park highlight the variety of species which could flourish on the former industrial site near the Lea Valley.

In their vision for the transformed space, shallow water would encourage frogs and newts, while an increase in dragonflies and damselflies would attract an array of birds and bats.

They even hope to see bitterns and Cetti’s warblers move in. Careful planning will enable people to enjoy outdoor areas without disturbing natural habitats.

Project Chair Abigail Woodman said the plan for the Park was not just about swimming and recreation.

‘We’ll be rewilding a lot of the site, creating a range of connected habitats. These include planting wild flowers such as the delightful golden Marsh Marigold, and plenty of reeds, which naturally filter the water. All of this will encourage new species to settle and flourish in the area.’

Engaging the community

Ms Woodman said the Park offered a variety of benefits to the community.

‘As well as open spaces, we are looking at an Arts and Science space; a community Cafe and Community Kitchen; even a make and repair space.

‘It’s exciting that we are seeing so much progress in our campaign to make this vision a reality.’

CPRE London helped establish the East London Waterworks Project, which recently passed a major funding milestone on its journey to buy and develop the site.

Emphasising that all those involved are volunteers, Ms Woodman said that community involvement was core to the programme’s success.

‘We’re very keen that the park is owned and run by the community. To do that we’ve set up a pathway to membership. Anyone can come along and join a meeting.’

CPRE London recently caught up with Abigail Woodman to find out more about what it takes to run a Parks campaign.  

Tell us a bit about yourself! I’m Abigail Woodman, chair of East London Waterworks Park, and I’ve been involved since the first conversations about the site and what we’d like to happen.

What got you involved in working to create this community space? With the encouragement of CPRE London, we started to think about how a community could get together to create a new environment, in the right way. We’re using a crowdfunder to raise money to buy the site, and every donation is a person saying I’m up for this. We are also talking to the landowner (which is central government) and saying: Sell the land to us please!

What have you personally found most challenging? For me, the idea of being chair of a charity isn’t something I have any experience of. All our roles have grown with the project and that’s exciting and terrifying in equal measure!

What other obstacles have you faced? It’s difficult doing something entirely with volunteers. We’re operating around people’s other commitments, but we’ve worked on creating a structure that will enable people to come and go when they’ve got time. We’ve come an incredibly long way, and building something with other people is really powerful.

What has been the most rewarding part so far? Just working with other people I didn’t know before. I know so many more people and that’s really joyous, especially coming together during the pandemic. It kept us forward-looking and positive, and that’s carried on.

How has CPRE London made a difference to you and your campaign? CPRE London (along with Save Lea Marshes) was one of our founder organisations. They’re the two that came together as a catalyst, and helped us shape that ‘yes/no’ conversation.

How has inclusivity played a role in the project? We live in a diverse area of London, and it’s fundamental that the project welcomes the whole community. That’s a very easy thing to say, but not so easy to do. Our research has equipped us with more confidence to approach groups and say: “you’re not really part of this conversation at the moment, would you like to be part of this?” Now that idea has spread, so we hear other people saying: ‘that’s a great idea, but hold on a minute, have we considered the inclusivity aspect of that decision?’

How have you created a route to membership for the community?  We’re very keen that the park is owned and run by the community, so we’ve set up a simple pathway to membership. Anyone can come along and join a meeting; anyone from anywhere in the country, or the world.

What’s next? We continue to raise money to buy the site, and we’re negotiating with the landowner. So buying the site is our primary focus at the moment.

Going back to your plans for the site, it’s not just about wild swimming is it? Wild swimming is fundamental, but it’s not the only thing. We’ll be rewilding a lot of the site in different ways. One thing I hope we’ll be doing is investigating how fungi can clean contaminants on brownfield sites. Hopefully also, there’ll be an Arts and Science space, and studios for scientists to work in. We can have a community Cafe and kitchen. We’re going to have workshops where people can make and repair stuff, and also a community space.

Where can people find out more about East London Water Works Park? It’s all there on our website which is

Would you like to share some final words about what the project means to you? For me this project is all about imagining the world that we want to live in. So think about what you want – and come and be part of the project and make it happen.

View our interview with Abigail Woodman here

CPRE London works to protect London’s green spaces and mitigate the impact of climate change

East London Water Park group
East London Water Park campaigners