Greenwich Park is a site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation - a real haven for wildlife within the bustle of London. However, traditional park management activities have meant the site has not reached its full ecological potential and regular mowing has restricted the growth of more natural grasslands, limiting the potential for biodiversity to thrive.
In 2020 work will begin to recreate the park’s more natural state - similar to those enjoyed by the likes of Henry VIII - to encourage biodiversity to flourish. And re-establishing the historic sounds, colours and smells of the natural meadow landscape of centuries gone by. Engaging visitors with the natural environment is at the heart of the project, with our new eco-friendly sustainable Learning Centre providing learning, training and events for visitors, and acting as a volunteering hub for vital conservation work such as butterfly surveys and management of the parkland.
Restoring Greenwich Park’s natural history – welcoming back the house sparrow
Restoring the park will benefit a wide range of species, such as the house sparrow, providing an improved feeding and nesting habitat for this iconic but declining species, as well as well as a wide range of grasses, flowers, fungi, invertebrates, amphibians, birds (including chiffchaff and whitethroat) and small mammals such as mice and voles which in turn provide food for the iconic Tawny Owl that breeds in the park. The project will help people to discover, learn about and enjoy nature by providing improved and sensitive access to wildlife.
Major restoration of Greenwich Park’s rare acid grasslands
The gravelly, sandy soils of the park’s heathland contain areas of ‘acid grassland’ – a habitat of national importance due to the variety of rare and declining plants and animals it supports – including grasses, wild flowers, invertebrates and even fungi.
Acid grassland occurs on free-draining soil with acid conditions and is characterised by grassy tussocks and bare ground. But in Britain, it is becoming increasingly rare.
The southern half of the park provides this important habitat – the largest area is Croom’s Hill. In Spring there is a spectacular dark-red carpet of the flowers of sheep’s sorrel. Burrowing bees and wasps, many of which are important pollinators, busy themselves around their entrance burrows, delivering food to their young.
We will re-establish more natural habitats, allowing areas of grassland to flourish, with the recreation of acid grassland habitats on the restored Giant Steps leading up to Royal Observatory. A more relaxed mowing regime (rather than traditional park management fortnightly cuts) will deliver a range of grassland habitat types. Varied and rich grasslands and meadows will establish throughout the park, including around Chesterfield gate, the Queen Elizabeth Oak, the Reservoir and from Vanbrugh Park Gate to One Tree Hill.
Re-establishing rare grasses and wildflowers
Our project work will allow grasses and wildflowers to grow, flower and set seed, and provide greater opportunities for other wildlife including invertebrates and in turn will provide more seed and invertebrate food for other wildlife such as birds, bats and amphibians, including the iconic house sparrow. These species have been in dramatic decline in recent decades. These more natural grassland habitats also benefit butterflies, including grassland specialists such as the meadow brown, Essex skipper, marbled white and small copper. These butterflies feed on the grasses and wildflowers as caterpillars, larvae and adults, and find shelter within the rough grasslands during pupation.
Creating bespoke habitats for mining bees, butterflies grasshoppers and crickets – and other invertebrates
The soils, topography and associated habitats of Greenwich Park provide an ideal home for invertebrates. As well as other invertebrate habitats, the project will create specific habitat features for mining bees and wasps, with slopes, mounds and soil scrapes creating features on the restored Giant Steps and Parterre banks, and on One Tree Hill, for these important pollinators to burrow and create breeding colonies, whilst improved management of the acid grasslands within Anglo-Saxon burial mounds will also help these species.
Learning Centre – training, learning, volunteering and events
The environmentally-friendly Learning Centre will serve as a new community ‘hub’ within the park, providing opportunities for adults and children for training, learning, events and activities, such as guided nature walks. It will provide a volunteer base to engage people in conservation through citizen science projects such as butterfly surveys and practical conservation.
The Centre will create new green space and wildlife habitats within the park for all visitors to enjoy, transforming part of the area that is currently an underused contractor’s yard, whilst native woodland planting will help species such as house sparrow, bats and stag beetle as well as a range of other birds and invertebrates. The Learning Centre itself will be designed to provide homes for wildlife – with a living roof providing grassland habitats, and bat, bird and invertebrate boxes included within the building. The building will incorporate sustainability features such as rainwater harvesting and solar panels.
Plantation of pollinator-friendly shrubs, trees and plants
The project will see extensive planting of native scrub and trees across the park (including hawthorn) to provide improved foraging habitat for pollinators and birds that have a precarious foothold in the park such as Chiffchaff and Whitethroat. The Flower Garden will be enhanced with wildlife-friendly planting in keeping with its formal, Edwardian design, alongside native wetland planting and the improvement of water quality in the lake and adding natural play features for children.
The lake in Greenwich Park will be supplied by water from a borehole, with water quality improved
, through improved circulation and oxygenation of the lake. This, alongside native wetland planting such as yellow-flag iris, marsh marigold and purple loosestrife, will improve the lake for a wide range of species including invertebrates such as dragonflies; amphibians such as frogs and toads; and a wide range of birds such as moorhens and tufted ducks.
The Wilderness Deer Park
The Wilderness Deer Park will be enhanced for wildlife and people. New grassland and scrub habitats will be created and a new nature trail will provide access to nature for visitors, and better views of the deer. A new wildlife pond will provide pond dipping for children, whilst the woodlands will be improved through planting of native scrub, wildflowers and bulbs. These enhancements will support a diverse range of priority species, including frogs and toads, dragonflies and stag beetles and woodland bird species.
Biodiversity in Greenwich Park
Through the work above we hope that the following five species (or groups of species) will benefit from the improvements to habitat management in the park:
- Tawny Owl, whitethroat, chiffchaff and house sparrow and other birds of woodland and scrub
- Stag Beetle
- Ground nesting bees and wasps
- Grassland butterflies such as the meadow brown, Essex skipper, marbled white and small copper
- Harebell, sheep’s sorrel, heath bedstraw and other plants of acid grassland