Wildlife boost for Hackney Marshes and London Fields

New trees, plants, improvements to a green classroom and a biodiversity-boosting pond are some of the exciting changes earmarked for Hackney Marshes and London Fields after local ecologists and park volunteers - working closely with the Council - secured two grants from the Mayor of London’s Grow Back Greener Fund.

Set to be delivered in partnership with Wildlife Gardeners of Haggerston, ecologist Russell Miller and London Fields User Group the funding will support two projects that promote nature recovery and biodiversity.

One of the grants for £50,000 will see three areas of London Fields rewilded, with improvements to the woodland and green classroom, new planting and habitats created around the edge of the park. 

The other grant of £25,000 will build upon nature recovery work in Hackney Marshes, and introduce a new wildlife-rich area around North Marsh Pavilion. 

Both projects will draw on the knowledge of local experts and the local community, and help fulfill the wider Council plan to protect and enhance the borough’s green spaces. 

In 2022 the Greater London Authority’s Grow Back Greener scheme funded an ambitious river restoration project on the Old River Lea. Devised by Gideon Corby and the Wildlife Gardeners of Haggerston, working in partnership with London Borough of Hackney, Lea Valley Regional Park Authority and Save Lea Marshes, it aims to change the river's trajectory away from ecological decline towards a healthier, more resilient future, with cleaner gravel for fish to spawn and better habitat for aquatic insects such as dragonflies.

The exciting finale of this first phase of GLA funded work saw more than fifty volunteers plant 350 trees to create four new stepping-stone copses – groups of trees that encourage wildlife activity. Designed by urban ecologist and tree expert Russell Miller, the copses are a pivotal part of a new 1-hectare link in the wildlife corridor allowing shrews and hedgehogs to travel between the Old Lea and the Middlesex Filter Beds Nature Reserve. This is a major extension to the Hackney Marshes Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation and will help support the population of weasels, kestrels and owls.

In 2023, the second phase of the Old River Lea project will be delivered in parallel with the newly funded ecological enhancement scheme around the North Marsh Pavilion. These multiple interventions on both sides of Hackney Marshes provide truly transformative habitat improvements, playing a significant role in Hackney Council’s Nature Recovery Plan.

Cllr Caroline Woodley, Cabinet Member for Families, Parks and Leisure

We can only hope to succeed in making the borough greener and healthier, if we work in partnership with experts and volunteers. 

I’m really happy to see the ambitions of local ecologists, park user groups and our dedicated parks and green spaces team recognised by the Mayor of London’s Grow Back Greener Fund. This funding will allow us to expand on the community-led nature restoration work on the River Lea and help wildlife thrive in the Marshes and in London Fields.

I warmly encourage any residents who would like to volunteer to get involved in these exciting projects.

Cllr Caroline Woodley, Cabinet Member for Families, Parks and Leisure

This new nature reserve will benefit grass snakes, weasels, kestrels and hundreds of other species. We took a few hundred trees and used them to redefine one hectare of unused amenity sports grass, to begin its transition to wild space. We have shown that nature recovery is possible if people who understand ecology are empowered to make changes that favour wildlife.

Russell Miller, the ecologist and arboriculturalist who designed the planting plan for the new North Marsh wildlife area

The London Fields User Group is thrilled to have received a grant from the Mayor of London’s Grow Back Greener Fund. London Fields is a much loved and much used park but this popularity comes at a price. The park’s popularity can have an impact on wildlife habitat and this funding will enable us to create habitats to support biodiversity. 

It’s the chance to create and enhance spaces where children and young people can learn about nature, in nature. The plans mean young people can engage with the park’s biodiversity for years – passing this love of the park on to future generations.

While we have the money to do the work, we will need help – in the planning and delivery of the scheme. There will be regular volunteering events including clearing areas, planting and watering so look out for our announcements as the scheme goes forward

Kevin Flemen, Chair of London Fields User Group

To find out more about the Council’s Nature Recovery Plan visit hackney.gov.uk/biodiversity-and-nature-conservation 

For volunteering opportunities in local parks sign up to the Hackney Parks and Green Spaces Newsletter.