Yes – we’ve all seen one of those raggedy foxes that look like they need a good wash wandering throughout our beloved city streets. But London has far more than foxes. From peregrine falcons to grass snakes and red deer to tawny owls, there’s plenty to see in our beloved capital. So, without further ado, here’s our rundown of the best places to spot wildlife in London this Spring. Go on, channel your inner David Attenborough!
1. Sydenham Hill Wood, Dulwich
Kicking off this roundup of where best to spot wildlife in London is Sydenham Hill Wood – a peaceful pocket of South East London which is a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation and is looked after by the London Wildlife Trust.
The last remaining tract of the ancient Great North Wood, it’s a lovely spot which is great if you’re looking for some peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Follow the well-marked trails here and you may be able to spot the resident tawny owls, green woodpeckers, kestrels, wood mice, stag beetles and hedgehogs which reside here.
📍You’ll find Sydenham Hill Wood at 5 Peckarmans Wood, London, SE26 6RY.
🚇 Nearest station is Forest Hill.
2. Greenwich Park, Greenwich
Officially one of the UK’s most beautiful parks, Greenwich is a former hunting park of King Henry VIII and is the oldest of the eight Royal Parks of London. Home to spacious boulevards, flower-filled gardens, wildlife-rich meadows and historic spots dating all the way back to Roman times, it’s a peaceful, Grade I-listed spot which is well worth a visit whenever you’re in SE10.
As well as being one of the best places to see the sunset (or sunrise if you’re an early bird) in town, it’s also home to a wide array of ancient trees which provide the ideal nesting ground for species including tawny owls, woodpeckers, thrushes and warblers. It’s also home to pipistrelle bats and over 92 species of spider – phew!
📍You’ll find Greenwich Park at SE10 8QY.
🚇 Nearest stations are Cutty Sark DLR and Greenwich.
3. WWT Wetland London Centre, Barnes
Taking over the site of four disused Victorian reservoirs in Barnes, West London, the WWT London Wetland Centre offers up 105 acres of wide-open spaces and wetlands for you to explore. The centre itself is home to the bittern – one of the UK’s most elusive breeding birds – as well as the incredibly rare Leisler’s bat and Nathusius’ pipistrelle bat.
Other things to spot here include Asian short-clawed otters – the smallest of all 13 species of otter worldwide – which can be found frolicking and swimming about in the ‘Wetlands of the World’ display centre. They’ve also got a great illuminated light trail come the festive season, so it’s perfect for families!
📍You’ll find the WWT Wetland London Centre at Queen Elizabeth Walk, Barnes, London, SW13 9WT.
🚇 Nearest stations are Barnes and Barnes Bridge.
4. Walthamstow Wetlands, Walthamstow
Next up on our roundup of the best places to spot wildlife in London is the Walthamstow Wetlands – a magnificent green area with thirteen miles of paths and several picturesque reservoirs too.
As London’s largest nature reserve and a Site of Specific Interest (SSI), there’s a whole host of wildlife species which call this place home – including kingfishers, herons, peregrine falcons and bank voles – as well as invertebrates such as damselflies, dragonflies, speckled wood butterflies and thick-kneed beetles too. The only downside here is that dogs are verboten, so you’ll need to go elsewhere for your daily dose of floofs, puppers and four-legged friends.
📍You’ll find the Walthamstow Wetlands at 286 Blackhorse Lane, London, E17 5QH.
🚇 Nearest station is Blackhorse Road.
5. Richmond Park, Richmond
A rambling, wild-feeling deer park right on the outskirts of South-West London, Richmond Park is the second largest park in London and is positively overflowing with nature stuff it has to be said.
Designated a special conservation area, it’s well worth exploring, with open grasslands and woodland trails with year-round appeal. There’s over 600 resident deer here – so cover enough ground and you should eventually spot some. Other species found here include shrews, mice, voles, bats, kestrels and a range of waterfowl. Don’t miss the chance to explore the Isabella Plantation right in the middle of the park, where you’ll find vividly-colourful flower gardens, burbling streams, hidden paths and picnic-friendly lawns.
📍You’ll find Richmond Park at Richmond Park, Surrey, TW10 5HS.
🚇 Nearest stations are Richmond and North Sheen.
6. Alexandra Park, Haringey
Alexandra Park is an award-winning park in North London, and is probably best known as the home of the mighty Alexandra Palace. The winding paths and panoramic views over the city mean this place is guaranteed to be beautiful, whatever the weather—particularly if you’re lucky enough to catch the sun rising or setting.
It’s also the site of Kaleidoscope – one of the best London festivals taking place over the Summer – and they’ve got 196 acres of wide open space for you to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. In terms of wildlife, Ally Pally Park ain’t exactly short of that either – there are 694 different types of plants, animals and fungi here, including 212 different types of insects and 26 types of arachnids! Add in thousands of bats – which tend to come out around the boating lake at dusk – and you can see why this one is on this best places to spot wildlife in London roundup.
📍You’ll find Alexandra Park at Alexandra Palace Way, London, N22 7AY.
🚇 Nearest stations are Alexandra Palace and Wood Green.
7. Epping Forest, Loughton
A slightly-longer-than-usual trip along the hot box that is the Central Line to the edge of Essex brings you right to the edge of Epping Forest – London’s largest open space which boasts an abundance of lakes, rivers, and tree-lined trails.
Both a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), the area is home to 55,000 ancient trees – more than any other single site in the country – and some of them have been growing here since the Anglo-Saxon times! As you’d probably expect, there’s a hell of a lot of wildlife that calls this place home – from birds such as buzzards, sparrowhawks and jays – to reptiles such as adders and grass snakes.
Add in mammals like muntjac deer and weasels and you can see why we’ve added Epping Forest to this list.
📍You’ll find Epping Forest at CM16 in Essex.
🚇 Nearest stations are Loughton and Theydon Bois.
8. RSPB Rainham Marshes, Purfleet
Ok, so this next spot is technically not in London – it’s actually in Essex – but since it’s within the M25, we figured we could include it. A vast swathe of marshes, grassy shrubland and ditches which was once a military firing range, it’s now an absolute haven for wildlife and is home to marsh harriers, barn owls, short-eared owls, kingfishers, lapwings, golden plovers, little egrets, peregrine falcons and rare water voles.
Run by the RSPB and open all year round, it’s a great place to see migratory birds either as they arrive or as they fly off during the Winter months. Keep your eyes peeled for weasels and stoats too as well as grass snakes too!
📍You’ll find the RSPB Rainham Marshes at New Tank Hill Road, Purfleet, RM19 1SZ.
🚇 Nearest station is Purfleet.
9. Tate Modern, Bankside
Now you might find this one of a surprise. Built inside the old Bankside Power Station and characterised by a 325-feet-tall chimney tower, the Tate Modern is perhaps one of the most imposing buildings in the whole of London – so you’d be hard pressed to think that any wildlife would live here. Let alone want to! Well – you’d be wrong, as this iconic building is a favourite haunt of the fastest animal in the world.
No – there aren’t any cheetahs or sailfish here. We’re talking about the peregrine falcon, which can divebomb at incredible speeds of more than 200 mph. No slowcoaches here hey?! London has the second-highest urban peregrine population anywhere in the world – just after New York City – and the Tate Modern chimney has been home to a pair for well over a decade now. There are also pairs nesting in the Battersea Power Station and even the Houses of Parliament – fancy.
📍You’ll find the Tate Modern at Bankside, London, SE1 9TG.
🚇 Nearest stations are Blackfriars and Southwark.
10. Holland Park, Kensington and Chelsea
Our final addition to this roundup of the best places to spot wildlife in London is Holland Park – a charming spot in Kensington and Chelsea which covers about 22 hectares with a northern half of semi-wild woodland, a central section of landscaped gardens, and a southernmost section used for sport.
Make a beeline for the beautiful Kyoto Garden, which is an oasis of tranquillity situated right in the heart of the park. There’s a lovely water feature here and pond which is home to koi carp, but somewhat surprisingly, there’s also a roaming muster of peacocks (yes, that is the collective noun for a group of peacocks, just in case you were wondering). These bright and exotic birds are pretty easy to spot, and you may be lucky and spot a heron here too.
📍You’ll find Holland Park at Ilchester Place, London, W8 6LU.
🚇 Nearest stations are Notting Hill Gate and Holland Park.
So there you have it – a roundup of the best places to spot wildlife in London. From peacocks in Holland Park to peregrine falcons and water voles in the Walthamstow Wetlands, our beloved capital is packed full of a wide variety of wildlife, so make sure you get out and see it!