Work has begun on a scheme to create the largest urban wetland nature reserve in Europe.

The £8 million Walthamstow Wetlands, which are due to open next year, will allow cyclists, bird watchers, anglers and ramnblers free access to one of London’s largest open spaces in the Thames Water owned resevoirs.

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The reservoirs hold up to a third of London's tap water

With a new housing zone approved in nearby Blackhorse Lane, and £200 million invested in private developments, the wetlands will act as a back garden to the 300,000 plus people who live within two miles of the site.

When opened, dogs will be banned due to health and safety concerns with the untreated water in the reservoirs supplying up to a third of London’s drinking water.

The centrepiece of the site will be a new cafe and environmental education centre after the conversion of the derelict Victorian built Marine Engine House.

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Plans are in place to restore the locally listed Marine Engine House chimney

A viewing platform will be incorporated into the listed Coppermill Bridge, allowing users to view the 200 hectare landscape described by Boris Johnson as 'London's best kept secret'.

Waltham Forest Council last year secured £4.5 million of funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the project, with the rest made up by the council, Thames Water and the Greater London Authority.

Waltham Forest Council Leader Chris Robbins said, “We’re hugely excited about the Wetlands project. It’s a beautiful corner of the borough that is sadly under-utilised by local people as things stand.

"Housing is a big issue but a quality of life is needed and this space provides it for people across the borough and into Harringey too.

“It has already changed since I visited in 2011. This long project will continue for many years, indeed it may never end, always regenerating the area.”

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Martin Baggs chief executive of Thames Water and leader of the council Chris Robbins.

The London Wildlife Trust will undertake the day to day management of the site, with eight volunteers tasked with enhancing habitats for a wide range of species and ensuring that visitors do not adversely affect the site’s important wildlife.

The works on the boardwalks that have started already will allow a partial opening next year, with a full opening planned for 2017.

Walthamstow Reservoirs are a key stop-off for migrating wading birds such as green and common sandpipers, and are one of the few places in London you can see common kingfishers.

The reservoirs are currently used by anglers and in summer time as many as 150 have applied for £1 day passes.

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Anglers using the reservoir

Eddy Impey of Barnabas Road, Woodford Green, has been using the reservoirs to catch trout for over 15 years, and is concerned about the projects impact on the wildlife.

He said: “It’s going to ruin the fishing. More and more people are going to come over and it will be busy. I wouldn’t want to walk down those tiny paths especially with young children, it’s dangerous.

“There needs to be proper security in place, if they are going to open it up to everyone. 

"I only hope the British Carp Angling Championship in June is not disrupted."