We'd walked past the small, wooden gate entrance on Lonsdale Road plenty of times, my husband and I, but never been in. Leg O' Mutton Nature Reserve said the small sign; we assumed it would be an insignificant piece of woodland with nothing much to see. Still, our curiosity got the better of us and one Sunday afternoon, we went through that small, wooden gate. Little did we know that we'd come face-to-face with a beautiful decommissioned reservoir stretching 800 metres in length.
There are five access points to the nature reserve dotted along Lonsdale Road and the river path, and as you go in there is a sign giving details about the reservoir's history: it was built in 1838 for Thames Water and supplied local water until 1960 when it was decommissioned. Housing was planned for the site, but thankfully local residents strongly opposed this idea, and the local council stepped in and bought the reservoir from Thames Water, allowing us to enjoy the beautiful space as it is today.
My husband and I aren't avid bird spotters, but it was lovely to see that the reservoir is a haven for birdlife. I noticed swans swimming with their signets, resplendent herons standing tall on the water's edge, and various other ducks and water birds. The secluded location is perfect for local wildlife to flourish. According to the sign you can also see stag beetles, crickets, and butterflies in the bushes, grebes, teals and cormorants on the water, and kestrels, owls, and woodpeckers in the trees and reeds.
There are no amenities within the nature reserve, but it is very close to the centre of Barnes, which is awash with cafes and eateries. You can either exit at the same point you entered or further along the river if you want to explore more of the Thames' bank. There's a bit more information about the Leg O'Mutton Nature Reserve on the Barnes Community website.