A new visitor and learning centre will be created at Camley Street Natural Park in King’s Cross after London Wildlife Trust was awarded £1,098,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), with further support from Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Thames Water, Garfield Weston Foundation and Taurus Foundation.
Made possible by National Lottery players, the fully accessible building will include an education studio with multi-functional learning space, a café and facilities for volunteers. Exterior features will include wildlife-friendly spaces for nesting swifts and bats, and there will be new views across the nature reserve and the Regent’s Canal.
The development of this project has also been supported by a contribution of around £400,000 in Section 106 funds from the King’s Cross Central development.
Camley Street Natural Park is a green gem in the heart of King’s Cross, and provides incredible access to nature for local people of all ages...
For more than 30 years, Camley Street Natural Park has been an inspirational place to learn about wildlife, less than ten minutes’ walk from King’s Cross and St. Pancras stations. More than 20,000 people visit the park every year, where they can see species that are rare for central London – including birds such as Cetti’s warbler and kingfisher; and amazing insects such as willow emerald dragonfly.
The current visitor centre was installed in 1984, but the wooden structure – an old cricket pavilion – is no longer fit for purpose. Visitor numbers at the nature reserve have risen by almost 50 per cent over the past five years, and will increase further as the development of the King’s Cross area continues. The new facilities will enable London Wildlife Trust to manage the increasing pressure on the reserve.
When the new visitor and learning centre opens in spring 2019 it will enable London Wildlife Trust to deliver an exciting activity programme that will reach almost 7,000 children and adults every year.
Each year, an estimated 40,000 visitors will explore the reserve and have the opportunity to learn about nature and wildlife conservation. Although surrounded by the city, the nature reserve, which is about the size of a football pitch, boasts a mosaic of thriving habitats including wetland, woodland, meadow and invertebrate ‘zones’.
Work starts January 2018
Work is due to commence at Camley Street Natural Park in January 2018, subject to final planning approval from Camden Council in January. During this construction period the park will remain closed to the public. The footprint of the new building is no larger than the existing visitor centre, and it will remain one storey tall.
It will boast excellent sustainability credentials, including super-insulated walls and roof, water-source heat pumps extracting solar energy from the canal, and the ability to recycle rainwater throughout the park.
An outdoor learning area will also be created, using space created by the recent construction of the Somers Town Bridge, immediately to the north of the park. This will include new wildlife-friendly habitat on the banks of the Regent’s Canal. Other park improvements include wider and more accessible footpaths and ‘citizen science stops’ to introduce visitors to particular wildlife habitats.
The design of the new building will celebrate the site’s industrial heritage and transformation into an award-winning nature reserve. The area was once a ‘coal drop’, where coal from the Midlands was transferred from railway hoppers to waiting canal barges, carts and lorries.
Following demolition in the 1960s, local people, supported by the Trust and the Greater London Council, stepped in to save the wasteland as a nature reserve, which fully opened to the public in 1985. Camley Street Natural Park is now a much-treasured space for nature, and tranquillity, in the heart of King’s Cross.
Leah McNally, Director of Visitor Engagement at London Wildlife Trust, said: “We are delighted to have secured funding from the National Lottery to make our vision of a new visitor and learning centre at Camley Street Natural Park a reality. This nature reserve is a haven for wildlife and a place where visitors can discover and enjoy their natural heritage, all in the heart of London. We want to ensure the nature reserve continues to provide a memorable and remarkable space for visitors, introducing children to nature and offering a natural haven for Londoners, for many more decades to come.”
Stuart Hobley, Head of HLF London, said: “Camley Street Natural Park is a green gem in the heart of King’s Cross, and provides incredible access to nature for local people of all ages. Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, this project will be a fantastic demonstration of how natural heritage can exist and thrive alongside urban development.”
Councillor Adam Harrison, Cabinet Member for Improving Camden's Environment, said: “Camden Council are proud to be a partner in the creation of Camley Street Natural Park’s fantastic new visitor and learning centre. As well as the work undertaken by Council officers, we have also provided £400,000 in Section 106 funding from the King’s Cross Central Development. The new visitor centre and park improvements will mean that many more residents and visitors can learn about conservation, whilst also benefitting from the health, wellbeing and social improvements this can also provide. This project will enable Camley Street Natural Park to continue to be a green lung in the heart of King’s Cross, helping to improve our environment and ensuring that our open spaces benefit wildlife across the borough.”
London Wildlife Trust is the only charity dedicated solely to protecting the capital's wildlife and wild spaces, engaging London's diverse communities through access to our nature reserves, campaigning, volunteering and education. Visit www.wildlondon.org.uk
About Heritage Lottery Fund
Thanks to National Lottery players, we 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.