Did you know there is a two-acre wilderness next to the Eurostar terminal, at Kings Cross and St Pancras, London?
We didn’t either, but about this time last year, we stumbled across Camley Street Natural Park, a reserve on the banks of Regents Canal.
If you’ve ever visited this part of London, you’ll know it has the unmistakeable hallmarks of a capital city centre. Taxi cabs whizz past every two seconds; busy commuters and travellers strut briskly from train to tube, from tube to bus. Everywhere is hustle and bustle.
But behind the two major train terminals it’s a different story. Around the corner from Kings Place and across the canal from Granary Square (and the House of Illustration), Camley Street Natural Park is home to rare fungus, reed warblers, kingfishers, geese, mallards and reed bunting; and a variety of bats.
Camley Street is surrounded by tall buildings, and city-central sounds and smells. There’s no mistaking the fact that you’re in an urban natural park.
But once you step through its gates, the dense thickets soak up the noise from outside. It’s a surprisingly calm place, given its location. The site was created in 1984, from an old coal yard.
Camley Street’s two acres are made up of pond, woodland and meadow, to attract a variety of different species, including waterfowl, fish, insects and crustaceans like shrimp.
There’s even a set of bee hives nestled away in a quiet corner.
Camley Street runs sessions for schoolchildren, where they can learn all about wildlife in this accessible central setting.
If you go to the edge of the park, you can step onto Viewpoint, a floating platform designed by Finnish architects and inspired by the rocky islands off the Nordic coastline. It’s a great place to sit and look out onto the canal (parents might want to keep hold of small children, though, to avoid a tumble into the water….)
Over the next three years, the London Wildlife Trust will be replacing the existing buildings, and increasing access for disabled visitors. Their website says that the best time to visit is from April-October, but we went in February. Even in winter, it was still a good place to take a pause from hectic urban life.
If you want to pin this post for another day, you can do it here:
Camley Street is free to visit and open all week, from 10am-4pm in winter, and 10am-5pm in summer. There are picnic facilities and a visitor centre. No car parking is available, but the nearest stations are Kings Cross and St Pancras (about a 5-6 minute walk away).
Address: Camley Street Natural Park, 12 Camley St, Kings Cross, London N1C 4PW
To find out about more free things to do in London, check out our guide.