EC1 urban wildlife is there if you know where to look

“One of my earliest memories of the Barbican is of a primary school trip to place frogspawn in the ponds,” writes AMELIA BRADDICK. Exploring nature in EC1 during lockdown felt like coming full circle.

A person looks over an urban meadow as the blocks of the Barbican rise in the background
Credit: Amelia Braddick

One of my earliest memories of the Barbican is of a primary school trip to place frogspawn in the ponds. I hadn’t thought about our excursion until one of the lockdowns, when I visited the Barbican Wildlife garden, and I felt as if I’d gone full circle seeing wildlife in an urban setting once again.

With a pond, meadow and compost heap, here you’ll find over 300 species, including cucumber spiders, sedgesitter hoverflies and stag beetles. The garden is maintained by Barbican residents and has won awards: in 2018, 2019 and 2020 it was crowned “Outstanding” by London in Bloom.

Other local public gardening clubs are also available to join. St Luke’s Community Centre welcomes volunteers to assist with their three green spaces. The Edible Yard consists of a large greenhouse with a wildlife patch; the Community Terrace hosts a bug hotel and small pond; and St Luke’s Woodland Courtyard has dense trees which enhance biodiversity. An After School Gardening Club and Gardening for Over 55s are both held weekly. There are other ways to spot wildlife in EC1, by looking out of your window. Squirrels scutter by, urban foxes go digging in bins and bats soar over gardens.

You can also see various birds, yet some of them are in trouble. According to the City of London Biodiversity Action Plan (2021 to 2026), the housesparrow population has been rapidly declining and has been categorised as a ‘red status’ species, meaning urgent action is needed. Between 1994 to 2001, 70 per cent of Greater London house sparrows were lost although the report states that there’s a colony living in Fortune Street Park. To encourage repopulation the City Corporation is to provide nest boxes, protein-rich food and areas of shrub cover, and it aims to launch citizen science initiatives to understand sparrow behaviour.

The black redstart also features on the red list. They began to inhabit UK urban environments in the 1920s as the post-war bombsites replicated the rocky cliffs they were accustomed to. Now, they’re found in the Square Mile due to the increase in green roofed buildings in the City and the City Corporation plans to provide developers and builders with recommendations on how to use roofs to help it thrive.

The City of London Biodiversity Action Plan promises to develop specific open spaces for endangered species, improve the quality of existing ponds and create new ones for wildlife such as invertebrates, amphibians, dragonflies and bats. Education and community engagement are vital for this plan to work: voluntary groups provide data reports and promote biodiversity. Over the next few years, wildlife in the City and ECI will have the opportunity to flourish given support from both local residents and public bodies.

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