Nestled in the heart of south London lies a real wildlife gem. Westminster Ponds ESA is bordered by Commissioners Rd, Wellington Rd, Southdale Rd and Highbury Ave. At roughly 200 hectares it is the largest Environmentally Significant Area in the city. Five ponds and 11kms of trails make it an outdoor enthusiasts paradise. Hiking, birding and fishing are some of the activities that can be enjoyed there. Keep in mind this area is not a dog park so leashes no longer than 6ft must be used, and biking is not permitted.
The mixed habitat is home to several species of wildlife and is a favourite spot of mine to hike and take pictures. During some of my hikes there I have encountered White-tailed Deer, Coyotes, Beavers, and numerous bird species, both migrating and resident. This time of year is a great time to visit because the fall colours around the ponds are amazing. Several types of sparrows including White-crowned, and White throated can be seen by the hundreds. Ruby-crowned, and Golden-crowned Kinglets are other species that can be seen quite readily this time of year. The five ponds are good stop over places for migrating waterfowl too. Loons, grebes, and many duck species can be seen.
All trails are clearly marked and vary in length. Anything from a quick stroll to a full on hike can be enjoyed. Remember to stick to the trails and obey the trail closed signs as reforestation is taking place in some areas. Trails can become quite muddy after a rain so make sure to wear appropriate footwear.
If spotting wildlife is your goal remember to walk quietly. This is another great reason your dog should be on a leash. I take my dog with me all the time on a leash and see something interesting every time I go. I’ve had people see me with my camera and ask what I photograph. When I tell them they sound surprised and respond by telling me they never see anything. These are the same people whose dogs are 20-30 feet ahead of them on the trails. As I mentioned earlier Coyotes are prevalent in the area and I have seen them try to lure small dogs away from their owners. If a Coyote is encountered and you feel unsafe shout loudly and make a throwing motion at it. This has worked for me in the past.
If you’ve never visited Westminster Ponds ESA you are truly missing out. It is one of my favourite places in the city. Please make sure to read and obey the rules and remember the old saying, ” Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints”.