Following Royal Assent to the Lee Valley Regional Park Bill in December 1966, the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority was formally constituted on 1st January 1967.
Lee Valley Regional Park Authority has been established to regenerate the Lea Valley from a neglected backyard into a ‘green wedge’ extending right into the inner parts of east London. Its purpose is to help meet the ever growing and various leisure needs of the people of Hertfordshire, Essex and Greater London (a population well in excess of nine million and multi-cultural), whilst conserving nature and improving the environment.
The Park Authority is an independent statutory authority established by Parliament. As set down in the establishing Act, it is financed from the Council Tax base of Hertfordshire, Essex and Greater London through an annual levy.
For more details, visit www.leevalleypark.org.uk.
Stretching 26 miles (40 km) on both sides of the River Lee, the unique natural features of this 10,000 acress area have been shaped to provide a mosaic of countryside areas, urban green spaces, heritage sites, country parks, nature reserves and lake and riverside trails, plus sports and recreation centres. Approximately four million people visit Lee Valley Regional Park annually to take advantage of the range of leisure opportunities available. These include golf or ice skating, fishing or bird watching, or exploring the countryside and historic sites.
CEPA (communications, education and public awareness) activities take place throughout the Park. Classroom facilities exist at Waterworks Nature Reserve and Golf Centre, and Abbey Farmhouse, Waltham Abbey.
Waterworks Nature Reserve and Golf Centre
Located in east London on Lea Bridge Road in Leyton, this £2.8 million development sees the former Essex Filter Beds, built to purify London’s drinking water in 1849 at the height of the cholera epidemic, transformed into a Nature Reserve and ‘Close up on Wildlife’ visitor experience.
Since their closure almost 40 years ago Mother Nature has done much to reclaim the site which is now a haven for wildlife in a dense urban area. The site is now home to 322 species of plants, two of which are locally scarce. There are Grass Snakes, Common Frogs, Common Toads and Smooth Newts together with two colonies of Water Voles. 25 species of breeding birds including the Tree Sparrow, Song Thrush, Linnet and Reed Bunting have already been spotted. Kingfishers breed nearby and they are regular visitors to the site for feeding and winter visitors include rare species such as Gadwall, Teal and the Grey Heron.
The site is also host to over one quarter of the dragonfly species found in Britain.
In addition to a six-station bird hide in the reserve itself, The Waterworks also features a Visitor Centre with interactive displays helping to interpret the history of the site and the wildlife now found there. The Centre includes a licenced café, veranda, shop, auditorium (available for private functions)/large classroom and has free parking. The Visitor Centre (including café, shop and exhibition open from 8am – dusk in winter and 8am – 9pm in the summer, 7 days a week, 12 months of the year.
Located in Abbey Gardens, Waltham Abbey, Essex, this centre has a double classroom and specially designed dipping platform located on the adjacent Cornmill Stream. The centre is only a few minutes walk from Cornmill Meadows Dragonfly Sanctuary Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). This is the best single site to see dragonflies in Greater London, Essex and Hertfordshire. The slow-flowing rivers and luxuriant water plants provide an ideal home for these fascinating insects who feed on large numbers of horseflies, damselflies, butterflies, midges, mosquitoes and other insects. 21 different types have been seen here – over half the total number of British native species. This includes scarce species like the Hairy Dragonfly and White-legged Damselfly.
Many CEPA activities take place in the neighbouring River Lee Country Park. The landscape of River Lee Country Park is dominated by lakes and is one of the most popular bird watching areas in the region. In the past, large scale gravel extraction took place in the area, after which many of the pits flooded. These lakes now provide a refuge for wildlife. River Lee Country Park is now a complex of open water, wooded islands, reedbeds and marshy corners, all excellent habitats for birds. Special habitats include Hall Marsh Scrape (shallow water and marsh) and well established reedbeds at Fishers Green. The latter provides a winter home to the elusive Bittern.
Other important wetland habitats within the Park include Silvermede in Broxbourne, Amwell Quarry Nature Reserve, East India Dock Bay, Chingford Reservoir, Walthamstow Reservoirs and Walthamstow Marsh.
The Lee Valley Regional Park is important for birds at all times of the year. In recognition of its importance to wildlife, the Lee Valley was classified as a Special Protection Area (SPA) and Ramsar site in September 2000. The classification was made on acoount of the internationally important numbers of migratory Gadwall and Shoveler duck and nationally important numbers of Bitterns which winter in the Valley.
Many other waterbirds (including Tufted Duck, Smew, Cormorant, Great Crested Grebe, Coot and Bittern) reach levels of national significance. The wintering numbers of many other birds, ranging from Siskin in wet woodland to pipits and wagtails on sewage treatment works, are of regional or local importance. Overall the wetlands of the Lee Valley Regional Park represent one of the major inland wintering areas for birds in the UK, supporting over 10,000 birds every winter.
A lack of comprehensive data prevents a thorough assessment of the value of the Lee Valley for invertebrates. Some groups, such as dragonflies and grasshoppers have been well studied while others have had scant attention. However, a number of rare species have been identified and presence is likely to be indicative of rich invertebrate habitats. Aquatic molluscs have been sampled at the Cornmill Stream/Old River Lee and include the nationally threatened Red Data Book Shining Ramshorn Snail,associated with grazing marsh ditches. A number of local or notable species also occur here or at nearby sites.
Sixteen species of Red Data Book mammals occur in the Lee Valley Regional Park. Populations of Otter, Water Vole and bats are judges to be of regional significance.
The Lee Valley is highly significant on a regional and local basis for the abundance and variety of wetland plants. Many native wetland plants have shown severe reductions in range as wetland habitats have become degraded or lost.
Formal (school and university) learning
The Youth and Schools Service is here to help teachers, lecturers and youth group leaders utilise the Lee Valley Park’s huge potential as an educational resource. We offer a series of half-day educational programmes for primary schools, designed to help meet the requirements of the (English and Welsh) National Curriculum for Key Stages 1 (4-7 years) and 2 (8-11 years) to link to some QCA Schemes of Work. All programmes have accompanying pupil project books.
Full and half-day programmes are offered for secondary schools and colleges on topics such as leisure and recreation, conservation and land use which can meet requirements of the National Curriculum and other syllabi (GCSE, BTECH, GNVQ, AVCE, A Level). We can also help arrange self-led visits.
Informal (general public) learning
Interpretation boards are located throughout the Park. A series of events open to the general public are arranged throughout the year – thse range from guided walks to large events such as the Lee Valley Bird Watching Fair in February (details are available from www.leevalleypark.com or by calling the Information Service and from Lee Valley Village Youth Hostel.
Volunteers are always welcome to assist in practical conservation tasks, contact the Central Ranger Service on 01992 714610 for more details.
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Various activities are available for youth groups including countryside and conservation projects, orienteering, habitat studies and bird watching.
In addition we can devise programmes to cater for outdoor badge work and award schemes.
All the programmes are designed to be accessible to young people of all abilities. Where necessary we will adapt programmes to suit the needs of individuals or groups with particular disabilities or educational needs.
Further details on all Youth and Schools programmes can be found at:
www.leevalleypark.com/education or by calling 01992 702227.
Karen Wheeler – Acting Youth and Schools Officer,
Lee Valley Park Youth and Schools Service,
Essex EN9 1XQ
T: 01992 702227
F: 01992 702230