At Camley Street Natural Park

Dear Readers, you might remember that I made an autumn visit to Camley Street Natural Park in Kings Cross not long after it opened, and that I was very impressed by the tranquillity of the site. I was a little worried that, on a beautiful spring day, it would be extremely busy but it manages to retain its serenity even when there are more people about. We had a coffee and watched the coots chasing one another up and down the canal for a bit – they use their huge feet like little outboard motors. I was much struck by this graffiti too. Is Egg a human, or is this simply a declaration of culinary appreciation?

Then it’s off for a meander around the meadows and ponds. The reserve is adjacent to Coaldrops Yard which is now a very fancy shopping mall, but previously this whole area would have been used for loading and unloading coal, brought down from the Midlands by train and barge, and used to create town gas, which would have been stored in the gas holders in the first photo. The site was derelict by the 1970s, but was acquired as a nature reserve by Camden Council in 1985. This is its second incarnation as a reserve, and very nice it is too.

The meadow/bog area features all kinds of plants – green alkanet (which I am quickly coming to think of as the London Weed, it seems to be everywhere, three-cornered garlic with its triangular stems,  teasel for the goldfinches, and some red deadnettle for the bumblebees.

Green alkanet (and some sedum/hylotelephium with its brown heads to the left of the photo)

Three-cornered garlic

Red dead-nettle


There was also a herd of wheelbarrows, just waiting for some volunteers who want to do some weeding or pond clearance.

There is cow parsley and alexanders: cow parsley is the earliest of the umbellifers to flower around here, and alexanders is becoming more common, I would say.


Cow parsley


There are some bluebells too, hybrid I’d say but pretty nonetheless.

Then it’s along to the pond proper – I rather liked this view of the tree trunks reflected in the water.

There are a few moorhens around, disappearing shyly into the reeds. I have heard tell of some reed buntings too, but didn’t see any today, though I did hear the call of a chiffchaff. I love wandering along the paths through the woodland, and they have some willow fencing, so they don’t have the same problem with trampling that some sites do. Plus, they have a London Wildlife Trust volunteer on site who patrols the paths to answer questions and make sure that people aren’t careering through the undergrowth.

There is some early hawthorn blossom….

And the wayfaring tree (Viburnum lantana) is in flower – it occurs to me that I have never done a Wednesday Weed on this plant, so watch this space!

And so it was a very pleasant meander around Camley Street. It is, of course, busier at the weekend, so there was no heron this time, but wrens and long-tailed tits buzzed through the branches. It feels like a real oasis in this bustling area, which is still full of cranes and builders and general development. If you are in need of a nice coffee and a chance to reconnect, or if you have business in this part of the world, I recommend a visit here to recharge your batteries, and to see how even a very small area can punch above its weight in terms of biodiversity.


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