At Camley Street Natural Park

Dear Readers, I was last at Camley Street Natural Park several years ago, so when I heard that it had re-opened I had to hot-foot it down to Kings Cross to see what was going on. This is a tiny piece of land that punches well above its weight in terms of biodiversity, as we shall see. At the moment it’s only open from Wednesday to Saturday, but I would draw your attention to this rather fine café, which specialises in bagels of all varieties and makes a very fine coffee. Lots of people seemed to be just stopping by to admire the gas-holder flats and the canal over a flat white.

The view from the cafe.

There is some very new planting, which I suspect will be gorgeous come the summer.

And they have a rain/bog garden, kept moist by the rainwater collected from the café roof.

Ragged robin (Silene flos-cuculi)

However, the real water-features are around the corner. There are two largish ponds and boggy areas, one of which is used for pond-dipping and other natural history-related pursuits by local schools, while the other is left unmolested by little ‘uns with nets.


Stinking iris seeds

Alder seeds, much loved by finches and tits

Although they didn’t cooperate with my photographic efforts, the trees are absolutely full of mixed flocks of tits – I saw one with about twenty long-tailed tits plus some blue and coal tits. The air is full of the sound of their soft contact calls, and there’s plenty here for them to eat, and plenty of shelter. The paths are fenced with woven willow fencing, which means there’s much less danger of the relentless trampling that destroys so much of the underbrush in many of the local woods.



Not all the birds are little, though.

This very fine heron  spent a good ten minutes stalking a small fish through the weeds at the edge of the water. They are so focussed, so single-minded, that I found I was holding my breath in sympathy.

Eventually the heron was satisfied, and found a patch of reeds to rest in. S/he seemed completely unfazed by all the attention. I suspect that this will be a very productive patch come spring, when the frogs put in an appearance.

Elsewhere, a squirrel was breaking off twigs and weaving them into a drey. I suspect that they sense the shorter days, and want to sort themselves out somewhere warm and cosy before winter really gets going.

I look at the squirrel. The squirrel looks at me. Impasse.

Everyone that I spoke to as I wandered around the paths was extremely friendly – people are delighted to have this new favourite spot to explore. One family had spotted this rather unusual bird, and were very disappointed (and ever so slightly disbelieving) when I said it was an unusually-coloured blackbird. It is very unusual, even so. 

Blackbird with a touch of albinism

And finally, just as I was leaving, I noticed that on the board one of the interesting things was a plant called ivy broomrape, so I had to find out where it was. The person who worked for the London Wildlife Trust on site was incredibly helpful, and once I’d seen it I wondered how on earth I’d missed it, it was everywhere!

Ivy broomrape (Orobanche hederae)

I won’t say much about this plant here, as I can feel a Wednesday Weed coming on. Suffice to say that this is a plant which is extremely unusual as it is a parasite without any chlorophyll of its own: it lives entirely by attaching itself to the roots of its host plant and stealing nutrients and water. Fascinating (to me at least), so I shall expound at more length next week. Stay tuned!

And finally, here’s some traveller’s joy (wild clematis) with its hairy seeds, growing close to the footbridge that takes you back to Coal Drops Yard. Do drop in to Camley Street Natural Park if you’re passing – I suspect there will always be something to see.

5 thoughts on “At Camley Street Natural Park

  1. Anne

    It is heartening to see the care lavished upon all sorts of natural areas within the built-up city. I hope you will remember to give us a summer view of it too for comparison.

  2. allicc

    It’s one of my favourite wild areas of London, but I find it such a shame that quite a big chunk of it has now been paved over. The paved area that your first photo shows used to be a little hill given over to a gorgeous wild flower meadow. There are plenty of other coffee shops in the Kings Cross area. I’m not sure why one is needed at Camley Street!

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      I felt as if the rest of the area was much wilder than I remembered though, and I imagine the cafe makes money for the Wildlife Trust? I guess they want to attract more people, and the place is free to enter…


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