Tuesday, 24 April 2012

An urban oasis for wildlife and people

This month Duck Island Cottage visited Camley Street Natural Park - a short walk from Euston Road, located within the heart of the King's Cross redevelopment and in a part of London with very little open space.

Many of Open Garden Squares Weekend’s participating gardens are centuries-old squares and dedicated green spaces. But, this park in its current incarnation is a youngster, having just passed its quarter-century.

From 1870, the bijou two-acre site was used for coal storage and in the 1950s, as the demand for coal diminished, the area became derelict. The land was purchased by the former Greater London Council in 1981 with the intention of creating a coach park. However, in the intervening years a remarkable array of wild plants had colonised the land - an amazing development given the shallow topsoil, below which, just five inches down, lay rubble and toxic remnants left over from the area’s previous use. It was agreed to turn this resilient, unique site into a park and so landscaping commenced in 1983, followed by tree planting in 1984.

Skilled, thoughtful landscaping and planting makes the park feel spacious: it packs in meadows, marsh woodlands and an open water habitat - fed by the waters of the Regent's Canal.

Pond-dipping is one of the most popular activities for schoolchildren visitors
(Photo: Sarah Jackson)
Now managed by the London Wildlife Trust, the Park’s focus is on the management and maintenance of diverse wildlife, which includes a wide variety of birds, bees and butterflies, amphibians and plants. And it also provides the local community with a valuable resource, providing environmental education for schools and opportunities for volunteers to get involved in tending and managing the site.

One of the Park’s wood-chipped walkways bordered by dense and lush foliage
(Photo: Sarah Jackson)
The Park continues to evolve and develop. The latest projects are the creation of a floating forest garden in a restored grain barge moored nearby and the construction of two clay, wood-fired ovens which form the centrepiece of an outdoor cooking and dining area, which itself is bordered by a backdrop of reclaimed logs. 

Camley Street Natural Park is a wonderful example of nature’s ability to survive and thrive in the most challenging of conditions. Please add it to your gardens itinerary this June!