St James's Park is a precious haven for wildlife right in the heart of the city. One of the key areas is the beautiful lake, which we’ve given a helping hand with habitat conservation programmes.
The lake was created in its current form in the 1820s by The Prince Regent (later King George IV). It is home to a wide range of bird life (including 41 different species of waterfowl!) and has two islands - Duck Island and West Island - which serve as a refuge and nest site for the birds.
Wildflowers on the banks of St James’s Park Lake
The lake covers around 20% of St James’s Park. Due to the substantial numbers of grazing ducks and geese, leaf litter and general city debris, the vegetation along the banks can suffer resulting in bare, muddy patches.
So to support the biodiversity of the area, we laid wildflower turf mats in three locations around the lake:
- Horseshoe Bend, close to Buckingham Palace at the western end
- On the northern side close to Blue Bridge
- Pelican Rock, close to Horse Guards Parade at the eastern end
Planting these mats instead of traditional turf introduces a greater diversity of wildflowers to the park. The wildflower turf contains netting to help bind together the roots of the flowers so that it can be handled and resist pressure from grazing waterfowl and wildlife as it beds in to the ground. The netting will eventually bio-degrade and disappear completely after around 36 months. This is a pioneering approach to maintaining biodiversity in this pressured area, one which could not have been achieved without support from Artemis, our St James’s Park Conservation Partner.
The turf mats have transformed the banks of the lake in spring and summer. Not only are they beautiful to look at but they also provide precious refuge and a food source for the bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects, which are struggling in London and across the country.
West Island conservation
West Island is an undisturbed habitat which lies at the western end of St James’s Park Lake close to Buckingham Palace. There is no public access to the island and it remains a refuge for wildlife and provides a place for waterfowl to nest. However, in recent years it has become overgrown, meaning the habitat is losing its conservation value as the ground flora is being shaded out, and the magnificent views to Buckingham Palace have become restricted.
With support from Artemis, our St James’s Park Conservation Partner, we installed a floating pontoon to allow access for tree surgeons to carry out work on the island in February 2016 and 2017. They carried out coppicing, pollarding, pruning and clearance of a number of overgrown trees and scrub. Because of this work, there’s now much more light on the island, which has encouraged the regeneration of ground flora and brought birds and waterfowl back to nest on the island again.
If you visit St James’s Park Lake you can see that the magnificent views across the lake from Whitehall to Buckingham Palace are back because of this conservation work.
You can support more conservation projects like this by making a gift to help us look after the Royal Parks.