New drive to get Hackney residents close to nature

Thousands more residents will get close to nature and enjoy a green ‘oasis’ in the heart of Hackney, thanks to new funding for a nature conservation charity.

London Wildlife Trust will run learning and conservation sessions offering people the chance to experience the wide variety of bird, animal and plant life at Woodberry Wetlands, in Stoke Newington.

The charity will also give people the chance to get their fingers in the soil by taking part in a new community food growing project and to volunteer for hands-on conservation work such as reed-cutting.

The project, funded through a £216,000 grant from City Bridge Trust – the City of London Corporation’s charity funder – hopes to reach up to 6,000 people, and is particularly aimed at under-represented groups living near the site.

Dhruv Patel, Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s City Bridge Trust Committee, said:

“Often those of us who live in London don’t realise the breadth and variety of nature that exists in the capital – sometimes right in the middle of some of its most built-up areas.

“This funding will enable London Wildlife Trust to introduce thousands more Hackney residents to the natural beauty of Woodberry Wetlands and the diversity of flora and fauna which live there.”

Woodberry Wetlands is on the site of the East Reservoir, created in the 1800s to store clean drinking water for the growing capital from the nearby New River, and opened to the public as a nature reserve in 2016.

Learning walks and talks to be offered under the scheme, which is due to start later this month, include history walks and walks offering people the chance to experience the aural splendour of the dawn chorus.

Andy Flegg, London Wildlife Trust’s senior sites and projects officer at Woodberry Woodlands, said:

“Woodberry Wetlands is an oasis in the heart of Hackney, in an area where there’s been a lot of recent development, but we often find that people who have lived in the area for a long time don’t visit and enjoy the nature reserve as much as they could.

“These activities will allow us to enable more people to experience the physical and mental health benefits of being outdoors, getting close to nature, growing their own food and venturing out and sharing experiences with other people.

“These sessions are part of our commitment to making our sites accessible to as many people as possible and ensuring everyone can enjoy London’s nature.”

Activities will be promoted through local community groups, community centres, shops and libraries and via on-site notice boards. More information is available at www.wildlondon.org.uk/woodberry-wetlands-nature-reserve

The City of London Corporation’s charity funder, City Bridge Trust, is London’s biggest independent grant giver, making grants of over £25 million a year to tackle disadvantage across the capital – www.citybridgetrust.org.uk

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Terry Skippen, 67, from Leytonstone, has been volunteering at Woodberry Wetlands for six years, taking part in conservation activities such as reed cutting, wildflower meadow seeding, refurbishing tern rafts, and building a bug hotel.

He said: “I look forward to volunteering sessions at Woodberry and really enjoy working with my fellow volunteers and the London Wildlife Trust staff. The work is interesting and the variety of it means there is nearly always a chance to learn something new.

“Playing a small part in helping London’s wildlife is very satisfying. And while the primary aim of the work at Woodberry is that the wildlife thrives, I know for sure that I benefit both physically and mentally from volunteering. I would recommend to anyone volunteering with London Wildlife Trust.”

Alison Johnston, from Hornsey, who has been volunteering at Woodberry Wetlands for four years, said: “This has been and continues to be a fantastic experience – working in a beautiful environment and meeting interesting people from diverse backgrounds.

“During these difficult times it’s been a lifeline to me – working in the open air, enjoying the great teamwork you always find at Woodberry Wetlands and knowing you are doing something really useful for the natural world.”

Notes to editors

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK – www.cityoflondon.gov.uk

The City Corporation’s charity funder, City Bridge Trust has allocated £11 million to the London Community Response, set up to help charities deal with the impact of coronavirus, and has also given over £1.7 million in one-off grants to 202 organisations it already supports to help them offset lost income resulting from the pandemic.

The London Community Response Fund is administered by City Bridge Trust, the funding arm of Bridge House Estates. The City of London Corporation is the sole trustee of Bridge House Estates and Members of its Court of Common Council form the City Bridge Trust Committee, responsible for taking grant and funding decisions for the charity.