Less than a mile from the famous London Wetland Centre, tucked into a curve of the River Thames, is Barnes’ second, and older wildlife reserve, the Park known as Leg o’ Mutton Reservoir. Named after its shape, the reservoir was built in 1838 by Thames Water, and supplied water for the local population for 122 years, until 1960.
On decommissioning, the site was earmarked for development into housing and a shopping centre. The residents of Barnes, a leafy and prosperous suburb, rebelled. After a tortuous process of several public enquiries, the council was prevailed upon to purchase the site in 1970 and turn it, by local suggestion, into a nature reserve.
Leg o’ Mutton now provides a lovely breathing space between river and town, a place where it’s possible to step away from the busy Lonsdale Road and into treelined paths around the central reservoir, now reed-lined and home to a wide range of wildfowl.
Floating platforms are provided for numerous birds including pochard, grebes, herons, shoveler, tufted duck. Kingfishers, owls, warblers, sparrowhawks, bats and numerous butterflies and other insects are also recorded. Periodically, the water level in the Park is adjusted by opening sluice gates to the River Thames right next door. Benches along the pathway around the Park provide vistas and the opportunity to contemplate the foresightedness of the residents who preserved the natural beauty of this special place.
Know Before You Go
Leg o' Mutton is open to the public at all times. Access can be made from the Thames Path or from Lonsdale Road at several points. The nearest train station is Barnes Bridge, and the 419 and 533 buses pass along Lonsdale Road. Dogs are permitted on leads only.