River Lee CP
4000ac/1619ha SSSI (part), SPA
Grid ref: TL 377 033 (click for o/s map)
Mouse over links for pictures; click for detail page.
Hall Marsh Scrape
Hall Marsh Scrape (scrape meaning an area of shallow water) was created on land backfilled with refuse after gravel extraction. Shallow pools had formed there and were attracting ducks and waders. Shallow water like this is an increasingly rare habitat, so the pools were enlarged and sluice gates were installed to control the water level. Now redshank, little ringed plover and lapwing breed regularly, and teal, shoveler, wigeon and snipe visit in winter.
The man-made Cornmill Stream used to power the corn mills of Waltham Abbey. Most of the Lee Valley waterways have been canalised, but the Cornmill Stream and the Old River Lea meander in natural channels. Consequently they have a much wider range of waterside plants including some scarce ones like flowering rush (bright pink, July–August). It is also rich in aquatic insect life – more than half of all Britain's dragonfly and damselfly species have been seen here including the banded demoiselle (the best place to see them is the fast-moving water near the weir where the Cornmill Stream leaves the River Lea) and the hairy dragonfly.
Comfrey, branched bur-reed and purple loosestrife grow alongside the Old River Lea.
Holyfield Lake is the largest of the gravel pits in the Lee Valley and has many wooded islands where birds breed and shelter while sailing is in progress on the lake. Goldeneye, goosander and smew visit in winter; yellow wagtail and sedge warbler join residents like great crested grebe and kingfisher in summer, when terns, swallows, martins and swifts feed over the lake.
Cormorants roost on the wooded islands. The tangle of wet alder and willow woodland on the margins and islands also suits breeding warblers and nightingales. Grasshopper warblers, finches and green woodpeckers may be seen or heard in the marshy scrub and woodland in the centre of the island.
The Grand Weir Hide gives different views of Holyfield Lake. The path to it passes the Goosefield where golden plovers, lapwing and canada geese may be seen in winter. Here there are several shallow pools which attract waders in summer and in migration periods.
Cheshunt Gravel Pits
The lakes of Turnford and Cheshunt Gravel Pits and North Metropolitan Pit are the oldest in the valley. With their varying depths of water and many spits and islands they have developed a very varied wetland vegetation, showing all the stages between reedbed, carr and wet woodland. Near Cheshunt Lock orchids (flowering May–July) grow on fly ash dumped from local power stations a couple of decades ago. A few hundred yards further you come to wild flower meadows near Aqueduct Lock, where cowslips flower in spring.
The reedbeds of Seventy Acres Lake are now well established following their creation in 2002. The lake is a wintering site for gadwall, shoveler, coot and, most importantly, bittern. The bittern is one of Britain's rarest birds, once down to only 20 males but now increasing. In winter the resident birds are joined by visitors from Europe and up to seven birds have previously wintered in the Lee Valley, attracted by the reedbeds and a good food supply. A special Bittern Information Point has been set up overlooking Seventy Acres Lake. This is reached via Fishers Green car park and is open every day.
Several car parks serve the country park on the Essex side. All can be reached by leaving the M25 at junction 26 and following the signs to the Lee Valley Park. The Showground car park is just north of the A121 between Waltham Cross and Waltham Abbey. Cornmill Meadows, Hooks Marsh and Fishers Green car parks are all signposted from the B194 to Nazeing.
Train to Cheshunt station from Liverpool St for River Lee Country Park or to Waltham Cross for Cornmill Meadows (bikes welcome). Many bus services serve the area: routes 505 and 250 should be most useful for access from Essex.
Accessible at all times. Information Centre at Waltham Abbey open daily 9.30am–5pm Easter to end October; Tuesday–Sunday 10am–4pm November to Easter.
Winter and migration periods for birds; late spring through the summer for wetland wildlife.
Many paths are shared-use paths, intended for pedestrians and cyclists: most of these are also suitable for wheelchair users.
Leaflets available from the information service: tel. (01992) 702200, email email@example.com or web www.leevalleypark.org.uk.