East London Waterworks Park one step closer to reality

East London Waterworks Park – a volunteer-led community project working to transform an industrial site in east London into a bio-diverse park with natural swimming ponds – has raised the £500,000 they need in order to move into the next phase of the project. 

A historic plan to build natural swimming ponds in Waltham Forest is one step closer after a community Crowdfunder raised over £500,000 in just seven months. 4,612 people raised £506,225 to take East London Waterworks Park – an idea conceived by local residents to acquire and transform an ex-Thames Water Depot on Lea Bridge Road in Waltham Forest into a bio-diverse park with natural swimming ponds – one step closer to becoming a reality.

If the project goes ahead, it will be London’s first new wild swimming ponds since the creation of Hampstead Ponds in 1777. It will also be the first public swimming ponds in the UK to be cleaned naturally by reeds and aquatic plants. Visitors will be able to swim for free all year round in rainwater cleaned by water-cleaning plants. 

With sustainability and community values at its heart, the ‘brownfield rainforest’ will also include conservation volunteering, a forest school and community hub – making it an invaluable addition to east London’s green and blue spaces.

A benefit to the area’s biodiversity 

The ambitious project, which was conceived in September 2019, has earned overwhelming support from local stakeholders, who’ve praised the volunteer-led groups efforts in reaching this recent milestone.

“We support the proposals for the creation of the East London Waterworks Park in Leyton and it’s great news that this project can progress to the next stage,” said Shaun Dawson, Lee Valley Regional Park Authority Chief Executive. “The innovative scheme chimes with our framework strategy for the overall area and would bring a currently closed site into recreational use with a range of benefits for visitors and the area’s biodiversity.”

While Waltham Forest Council Leader, Counsellor Grace Williams, said: “It’s great news to see that the East London Waterworks Park campaign has reached such a milestone – it shows the huge efforts of volunteers plus the community appetite for wild swimming.”

What next for East London Waterworks Park?

In a message of thanks to the project’s supporters, Chair and volunteer at East London Waterworks Park Abigail Woodman, said: “We’ve demonstrated that the community wants East London Waterworks Park to happen. We’ve demonstrated we can raise money to transform an industrial site into a brand new park for East London to provide educational, economic, health and environmental benefits for our community. And we’ve demonstrated that, together, we can take real steps to tackle the climate crisis, biodiversity collapse, social inequality and social isolation. Thank you to everyone involved.”

The crowdfunder remains open for donations and is currently working towards achieving its ‘stretch target’ of £600,000 by 28 February before moving into the next phase of its plans to purchase the 5.68-hectare site from the current landowner, the UK Government.

Find out more about the project; support their campaign to create the community-owned natural swimming ponds; read more news stories from Outdoor Swimmer.  

Drone photography: Jonathan Perugia

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Jo is the Gear Editor for Outdoor Swimmer and also writes news and features for the website. A keen open water swimmer and long-distance walker, she loves seeking out lakes and lidos close to her home in the Mendip Hills, Somerset. She is the author of The Slow Traveller, editor and founder of independent magazine, Ernest, and has previously tested outdoor clothing and kit for BBC Countryfile Magazine, BBC Focus and Ernest Journal.