Camley Street Natural Park was once a Victorian coal drop for the railways into nearby King’s Cross and St Pancras Railway Stations. In 1981 the land was earmarked for development as a coach park, by which time local people had discovered its wildlife value.
Local efforts to save it became a joint project between London Wildlife Trust, the Greater London Council (GLC) and Camden Council to create a brand new type of nature reserve – one that was open to the public, ran with the community in mind and situated in an inner-city community which would otherwise have had very little access to the natural world.
We were forced to close the reserve due to the desperate need for the construction of a new visitor and learning centre, improved access and interpretation , as well as vital habitat enhancement work.
Following the award of over £1,350 million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, with further support from Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Thames Water, Garfield Weston Foundation and Taurus Foundation and a highly successful fundraising appeal in 2019, the Trust’s vision of a new Visitor and Learning Centre at Camley Street Natural Park was able to be brought to life.
Our new sustainable building was inspired by nature conservation and the historical use of the site as coal drop during Victorian times. The roof form is inspired by coal hoppers and acts as habitat for bats and swifts. The building is over-insulated, naturally lit, low energy and includes a natural cooling and ventilation system and rainwater run-off features. Our newly landscaped areas are permeable and include two rain gardens and a new butterfly and bee bank – a work in progress which you will see our volunteers develop and change over time.
"This nature reserve is a haven for wildlife and a place for people of all ages to come and discover nature and wildlife in the heart of London"
Construction of the new visitor and learning centre, including our new in-house café, is now complete – a process not without its challenges not least over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic – and we are looking forward to welcoming visitors to this fantastic space just 10 minutes’ walk from King’s Cross and St Pancras station. Our new outdoor Kingfisher Café will be open Wednesday to Sunday 10am – 4.00pm, serving a range of hand-crafted herbal teas, coffee, hot chocolates, chai, matcha, fresh pastries and cakes and premium bagels.
Alongside the construction of the new centre, much-needed access improvements and habitat enhancement works have taken place. Our reserve manager Karolina and her volunteers have achieved great things improving the ponds and enhancing the wildflower meadow area, while 100m of multi-functional floating habitat islands have been placed in the Regent’s Canal alongside the reserve. They incorporate habitats in which birds can nest, invertebrates can live, fish can spawn and shelter from predators. The habitat islands also provide a range of ecosystem functions, including the absorption of excess nutrients from the water, mitigating canal pollution.
We have re-launched our schools learning programme, providing hands-on nature lessons directly linked to the National Curriculum. Outdoor school sessions cover a variety of topics, and activities include pond dipping – using nets and trays to explore our aquatic habitats; minibeast hunting – looking in our woodland habitats to discover the small invertebrates that live within, and plant detectives. We are also running a community learning programme and family learning sessions with increased volunteering opportunities. Keep an eye on our website and social media for more details.
Leah McNally, Director of Strategic Projects and Engagement said:
“We are incredibly excited for Camley Street Natural Park to be open to the public once again. This nature reserve is a haven for wildlife and a place for people of all ages to come and discover nature and wildlife in the heart of London. The new Visitor and Learning Centre along with habitat enhancements will allow many more people to enjoy the benefits of nature for many more decades to come.”
The opening hours of Camley Street Natural Park, including the Kingfisher Café will be:
Wednesday to Sunday 10am – 4.00pm (autumn/winter hours)