London Wetland Centre is a family attraction and world-famous conservation centre operated by the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust at Queen Elizabeth’s Walk, in Barnes,  south-west London. It provides an illuminating and jaw-dropping family day out with one of the most bewitching panoramas in the metropolis, affording a breather that makes you forget about the city bustle all about. While endangered animals and plants are the cornerstone of the 43-hectare (105 acre) reserve, London Wetland Centre additionally boasts various intriguing displays and other attractions. There are half a dozen hides (some up to three storeys in height), the ‘Bird Airport’ observation deck where wheeling feathered friends can be observed, along with CCTV at the Visitor Centre, giving ticket holders a chance to see the birds and their neighbours in any weather, without ruffling them, in what is recognised as the No. 1 urban wildlife sanctuary in Europe.

A family day out to London Wetland Centre involves a whole host of lakes, lagoons, ponds, marshes and even a man-made deep water reef that acts as a fish nursery and is accessed from 3.4 kilometers of pathways with disabled facilities, including toilets and wheelchairs, ensuring a splendid family day out that everybody can revel in. A Visitor Centre ticket also opens up the Victorian Barn Elms reservoirs, which closed in 1994 and remodelled as the London Wetland Centre by 2000. Some 200,000 visitors per year enjoy the transformation, the family attraction now possessing some 14 wetland zones that nurture 180 species of wild birds, along with dragon and damsel flies, eight varieties of bat (notably the Pipistrelle, Noctule and Daubenton’s), and seven kinds of amphibian and reptile (not least the Slow-worm and Common Lizard).

Among those paying flying visits to London Wetland Centre are White-spotted Bluethroats, Curlew, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Knot, Whimbrel, New Zealand blue duck, Laysan teal, whitefaced whistling duck, Cetti’s warbler, Swift, Yellow Warbler, Bewick’s swan, bearded tit, water rail, pochard, shoveler, gadwall, widgeon, redshank, lapwing, teal, pintail, lapwing, ring-necked parakeet, sparrowhawk, sand martin, kingfisher, little grebe, great crested grebe, Peregrine Falcon, osprey, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Hobby, and a breeding colony of Sand Martins. A bird spotter’s heaven on earth, the avian spectacle is worth the price of the ticket alone!

London Wetland Centre also harbours populations of marsh frogs, foxes, butterflies, highland cattle, ducks and the endangered water vole, whose activities enliven any family day out.

The family attraction was granted Site of Special Scientific Interest status in 2002 (following the 1975 designation of the reservoirs, given the seasonal, visiting population of diving ducks), and regular talks and events about the conservation of the UK’s wetland animals are held at London Wetland Centre (see details on its website).

As for plant life, more than 300,000 aquatic plants and 27,000 trees were planted at the London Wetland Centre before 2000, and ticket holders can get up close to them from the Queen Elizabeth Walk and 600 metres of boardwalk, along with its 27 bridges and 27 sluices. In addition, the 2500 square metre Sir Peter Scott Visitor Centre has cutting edge interpretation facilities (in common with all of the London Wetland Centre), as well as TV screens trained on numerous rare birds’ nests and some of the less common animal species.

Ticket holders can use the hands-on Discovery Centre, the children’s Explore adventure zone, an Art Gallery, lakeside café, gift shop and cinema, all adding up to a multifaceted and engaging family day out. The theatre often airs the Planet Water film, which embodies the informative yet pleasurable nature of the London Wetland Centre. This is underscored by exhibits such as World Wetlands, incorporating rare wildfowl from overseas, and Waterlife, focusing on wildlife gardens.
London Wetland Centre’s 14 wetland habitats include the Tropical Forest and Frozen North, which is made up of three displays re-creating Siberia, Spitzbergen and Iceland. It includes stunted trees, boggy wetlands and alpine meadows. Free tours by staff members usher ticket holders through the zones and, at three o’clock each afternoon, there are feeding sessions for ducks, geese and swans, producing a flurry of activity not reproduced at any other family attraction.

A family day out to London Wetland Centre can be boosted by acquiring compact binoculars and telescopes from the optics shop, while the Water’s Edge Café and extensive picnic areas are just the ticket for feeding the visitor. In addition, there is a shop stocked with wildlife books, outdoor clothes, bird feeders and boxes, cards and exclusive souvenirs. Schools can also book mini-beast safaris and pond-dipping sessions, while the Great Pond Safari located in the reed beds makes for a thrilling entertainment on a family day out. London Wetland Centre is an all-year round family attraction that the weather cannot put a dampener on, thanks in no small part to its Discovery Centre, with integrated water games, the Rain Cloud and Duck Race displays, a three-storey peacock tower and water vole tunnels, as well as a climbing boulder wall and a heart-stopping zip-wire aerial ride. Just the ticket for those wishing to take to the wing with the residents of the London Wetland Centre!

The family attraction can be booked for group activities, with The Water’s Edge Café catering for weddings, anniversaries, conferences and meetings for up to 150 people. It has stunning views over the lakes and pools of London Wetland Centre thanks to a wood decking balcony. The Tower, with its wildlife murals, is a more intimate space catering for 25 guests, while the cinema seats 80, and the Gallery can host up to 60. Guided tours can be booked too and take in some of the Centre’s rarer species. Dawn Walks focus on looking out for and listening to the fauna about the Centre and are followed by a hearty breakfast. Children’s birthdays can be booked as well, with a professional explainer on hand to provide one and a half hours of entertainment, along with a goody bag, providing a novel family day out at London Wetland Centre.

Queen Elizabeth’s Walk, Barnes, London, SW13 9WT
Tel: 020 8409 4400
Times: Daily, 9.30 – 18.00 (last admission 17.00)