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The Cornmill Meadows dragonfly sanctuary consists of wet meadows and pools between the Cornmill Stream and the Old River Lea. Unlike most of the Lee Valley waterways, both meander in natural channels and have a wide range of waterside plants. This includes some scarce ones like flowering rush. Comfrey and purple loosestrife grow alongside the Old River Lea.
The area is rich in aquatic insect life, and especially dragonflies and damselflies – more than half of all Britain's species have been seen here. Banded demoiselles are among the most numerous and – later in the summer around the meadows – migrant hawkers. Among the rarer species are the hairy dragonfly and the white-legged damselfly.
Dragonflies are favourite prey for hobbies, which can sometimes be seen hunting for them overhead. Water voles nest in the river banks.
Leave the M25 at junction 26 and follow the signs to the Lee Valley Park. Park in Waltham Abbey Gardens or follow the B194 to the Cornmill Meadows car park SatNav: EN9 2ES.
10-minute walk from Waltham Cross station. Bus routes: 505 Chingford–Harlow or 250 Debden–Waltham Cross.
Accessible at all times. Information Centre at Waltham Abbey open daily 9.30am–5pm Easter to end October; Tuesday–Sunday 10am–4pm November to Easter.
Summer for dragonflies; winter for birds.