When you think of London, you might think of red buses, black cabs, and busy streets. You probably don’t think of it being a wildlife hub but we’re going to show you that, if you know where to look, wildlife is as much a part of London as those other things. Wild animals do in fact roam freely all over the capital.
Here are some of our favourite wildlife havens in London. Unless stated otherwise, every spot on this list is free to enter, making them ideal weekend retreats for those who reside nearby.
WWT London Wetland Centre – SW13
Situated in South West London on the banks of the River Thames, the WWT London Wetlands Centre is a sanctuary for wildlife. The centre is full of ponds, lakes, and gardens, providing year-round habitats for insects, lizards, snakes, birds, and otters. Unlike the other entries on this list, there’s an admission fee, but all proceeds go towards the WWT’s wildlife conservation efforts in the UK and around the world.
WWT – The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust – is an international wildfowl and wetland conservation charity in the United Kingdom. Its patron is Queen Elizabeth II and its president is Prince Charles.
Richmond Park – TW10
The largest of London’s eight Royal Parks, Richmond Park is a haven spanning almost 2500 acres. It was originally used as a hunting ground in the 1600s but is now a protected wildlife reserve and one of the few places in London where you’re almost guaranteed to see interesting wild animals such as deer. The vast fields and open spaces are also home to many species of bats, birds, insects, and wildflowers. It’s difficult to believe that this park is just a short walk from Putney London Underground station.
Wimbledon and Putney Commons – SW19
Located close to Richmond Park in South West London, together Wimbledon and Putney Commons span over 1000 acres of land. Visitors can spot a range of animals they wouldn’t expect to find in London, including badgers, moles, weasels, and bats. Putney Heath to the north boasts beautiful woodlands and Wimbledon Common is a smooth, open grassland, both of which provide an idyllic setting for British wildlife.
Bushy Park – TW12
Bushy Park is the second-largest Royal Park at 1100 acres and located next to Hampton Court Palace. It’s an area of extreme historic importance, with evidence of activity during the Bronze Age, as well as being the site where General Eisenhower (later President Eisenhower) planned the D-Day Landings during World War II. Bushy Park is now also a conservation area for wildlife. Multiple varieties of deer roam freely, and it’s home to many bird species, including kestrels and kingfishers.
St James’ Park – SW1A
Located on the doorstep of Buckingham Palace and running alongside The Mall, St James’ Park is an oasis in the heart of London. Its groundskeepers work to maintain the presence of birds and other wildlife that inhabit the small lake at the park’s centre, providing an unlikely sanctuary in the capital city. St James’ Park is home to a flock of pelicans, first introduced to the park in 1664 as a gift from the Russian Ambassador; you’ll often see them fishing and bathing in the lake.
Gunnersbury Triangle – W4
Gunnersbury Triangle is a tiny, hidden gem in West London formed by intersecting railway lines. At just over 7 acres, it’s one of the smallest entries on this list. Woodland, pond, and grassland habitats provide homes for toads, woodpeckers, stag beetles, and many more. For almost 40 years, the area has been a protected nature reserve which has helped to create a self-sufficient ecosystem that’s just a two-minute walk from Chiswick Park tube station.
Sydenham Hill Wood – SE26
Sydenham Hill Wood is a nature reserve in South London. It spans 27 acres and is part of an ancient woodland that used to stretch from Selhurst to Deptford (almost 8 miles!). You’ll find the ruins of buildings dating back centuries dotted throughout the wood which provides evidence of Victorian villas and gardens. Over 200 species of plants and animals call Sydenham Hill Wood home, including Tawny owls, butterflies, and beautiful bluebells.
Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park – SE10
Perhaps an unexpected wildlife spot, given its proximity to the world-famous O2 entertainment complex, the Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park is a freshwater habitat on the banks of the River Thames. The combination of freshwater and wildflowers provide the perfect habitats for many species of bird, frog, bat, newt and butterfly. The park is very child-friendly, hosting a number of children’s activities on-site throughout the year. It’s free to enter and run by volunteers, making donations very welcome.
Frays Farm Meadows – UB8
Of the entries on this list, Frays Farm Meadows is the furthest away from the centre of London. Situated just within the M25, it’s over 70 acres and, being a meadow, you’ll find cattle grazing in the fields. You’ll also find a variety of bird species, including snipes and lapwings, as well as grass snakes and water voles. It’s also located very close to other London Wildlife Trust sites, including the Park Road Ponds and Denham Lock Wood. In the former, you’ll find plenty of amphibians, such as newts, toads and frogs, and in the latter, as well as a calming woodland with a whole host of woodland creatures.
Walthamstow Wetlands – N17
Last but certainly by no means least, the Walthamstow Wetlands are located in North London. Made up of several reservoirs, together they form the largest urban wetland reserve in Europe at over 520 acres. The purpose-built ‘swift tower’ houses swifts and bats, and grey herons are often found fishing in the waters. Kingfishers, multiple duck species, and peregrine falcons are amongst the many birds you can expect to find. It’s also one of the few places in London where hedgehogs are safe from human interference.
If you’re thinking of moving to London but are hesitant about the ‘big city’, we hope we’ve proved that London does offer access to nature and wildlife. For more information on what South West London has to offer, get in touch with us. We’d be happy to help.