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Landmark King’s Cross nature reserve set for new visitor centre

Wednesday 1st February 2017

Pond dipping at Camley Street Natural Park

Just over thirty years ago a patch of derelict land in King’s Cross, saved from development by local campaigners, was opened to the public as Camley Street Natural Park, an inner city nature reserve. Managed by London Wildlife Trust and just an eight minute walk from King’s Cross station, the award-winning reserve now attracts up to 20,000 visitors a year, including thousands of children from schools in Camden and Islington.

This project is a fantastic demonstration of how natural heritage can exist and thrive alongside urban redevelopment, and we are delighted that National Lottery players are able to support it...

The King’s Cross area has changed beyond recognition over the last thirty years, the focus of substantial investment and development. Camley Street Natural Park is also now lined up for renovation, with plans to completely rebuild the reserve’s visitor centre to create a world-class nature and learning hub, thanks to support from National Lottery players.

The current visitor centre was installed in 1984, but the wooden structure is no longer fit for purpose and cannot meet the needs of local schools and visitors, seeking nature and the chance to see wildlife in the heart of London.

London Wildlife Trust has now secured funding of £77,000 from Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to initiate the development stage of creating a new building, with construction due to start in 2018 and an opening date set for 2019.

The new visitor and learning centre will provide facilities for more than 7,000 children and adults to take part in inspirational activities each year, as well as providing visitor facilities for those who simply wish to visit and enjoy the reserve. The building will also provide a home to the Trust’s local reserve staff and the many volunteers who contribute to the success of this central London wildlife haven.

Kingfisher at Camley Street Natural ParkThe centre will include a multi-purpose learning space and education studio, with webcams revealing birds rearing their young in nearby nest boxes, as well as the underwater life of the nearby canal. As part of the make-over the new building will be fully accessible for wheelchair users and people with limited mobility.

Roughly the size of a football pitch, Camley Street Natural Park runs alongside the Regents Canal and supports a range of habitats including woodland, grassland, ponds and reedbeds.

Wildlife includes kingfisher and reed warbler, newts and frogs, and bats that hunt for night-flying insects and moths. Although small, the value of urban nature reserves is reflected in a 2015 report by independent consultants Atkins that demonstrates how Camley Street Natural Park contributes £2.8m of natural benefits to the local economy each year.

Gordon Scorer, Chief Executive of London Wildlife Trust said: “The creation of Camley Street Natural Park was a cutting-edge concept in the early 1980s, making space for wildlife and people in the heart of a crowded city. Urban nature reserves can now be found around the world, a movement that has blossomed and grown from UK roots. We thank HLF for supporting the Trust as we work towards creating this important new visitor and learning hub, a place that will enlighten, educate and inspire for many decades to come.”

Shirley Rodrigues, Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy, said: “Camley Street Natural Park has been an oasis of tranquillity in the heart of our bustling city for over 30 years. I am delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has allocated funding so that a new visitor and learning centre can be built at this iconic ‎site.”

“Spaces like this are one reason why London is such a fantastic place to live. The Mayor and I are committed to working with partners like London Wildlife Trust to ensure more Londoners can enjoy London's natural environment and the benefits this provides to health and well-being.”

Stuart Hobley, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund London, said: “Camley Street is a green gem in the heart of King’s Cross, and provides incredible access to nature for local people of all ages. This project is a fantastic demonstration of how natural heritage can exist and thrive alongside urban redevelopment, and we are delighted that National Lottery players are able to support it.”

More information 

Camley Street Natural Park is open all week, from 10am to 4pm in winter and 10am until 5pm in summer. See www.wildlondon.org.uk/reserves 

About the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF): Thanks to National Lottery players, HLF invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #HLFsupported.

 

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