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  • Writer's pictureSim Elliott

Camley Street Nature Garden. London. Butterflies & Birds & 100s of spikes of Ivy Broomrape. 26.06.23

I visited Camley Street yesterday for the first time since 1989, when I used to take children there when I was a teacher Copenhagen Primary School (Inner London Education Authority then London Borough of Islington). It is an island of tranquillity in a very busy part of London.

I reached Camley Street by taking a Thameslink Train from Brighton to St Pancras International. The nature garden is a 15 minute walk north from the station. Exit at the rear of the station toward Kings Cross and the route is well sign posted)

I am an amateur naturalist who mostly walks around the countryside of Sussex a lot. All identifications are provisional; if you note a mistake in identification please feel free to tell me. If you want to contact me about any aspect of this blog, email me at simeon[underscore]elliott[at]gmail[dot]com. All sections of text in italics are quotations, sources cited.

Camley Street Natural Park is a unique urban nature reserve, surrounded by significant new development in a bustling part of central London - between King's Cross and St Pancras.

The woodland, grassland and wetland habitats including ponds, reedbed and marshy areas, provide a rich habitat for birds, butterflies, amphibians and plant life, while the new Visitor Centre caters for the thousands who visit annually. Camley Street Natural Park | London Wildlife Trust (

Camley Street Natural Park is two acres of wild green space right in the middle of one of the most densely populated parts of London. In fact, once you enter the park, it’s hard to believe that you are next to one of the busiest rail interchanges in the country.

On the banks of Regent’s Canal, the reserve is a haven for plants and wildlife. The woodland, grassland and wetland habitats provide a home for mallards, coots, kingfishers, herons, amphibians and insects, not to mention a rich variety of plant life and rare fungi.

Run by the London Wildlife Trust, the park was created from an old Coal Yard in 1984. Camley Street Natural Park, King’s Cross - King's Cross (

The rubbish was cleared from Camley Street and the soil piled up to create open grassland with a large wetland area for children to go pond-dipping, with willows and alders planted by the canal. In 1985, with typical panache, Livingstone pitched up to open this “outdoor classroom” in one of the last narrowboats to still carry cargo. “A dead area has been transformed to bring a country setting to the inner city,” he said. It had not been cheap – £600,000 on land and £185,000 on cleaning and landscaping it (£2.5m in today’s money) – and the Tory press liked to demonise the GLC for lavish spending on apparently marginal projects. Camley Street was saved just in time: Margaret Thatcher’s government abolished the GLC less than a year later. How Camley Street brought nature to the heart of the capital | Environment | The Guardian

I have chosen to disclose the location of these Broomrapes (rather than obscuring the location of other finds in the countryside in Sussex) as Camley Street is well staffed by the London Wildlife Trust reserve and is visited by many people (and it is closed at night) so the chances of vandalism or theft are small.

Coot Family


Regents Canal from reserve

Comma Butterfly

Small White Butterfly

Goats Rue

Hedge Woundwort with Buff-Tailed Bumblebee and Meadowsweet

Reed Warbler singing

A little collection of ferns

Ivy Broomrape, in the wooded corner of the reserve.

Text from Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland Plant Atlas 2020 listing

Ivy Broomrape Orobanche hederae Duby Orobanche hederae Duby in BSBI Online Plant Atlas 2020 eds P.A. Stroh, T. A. Humphrey, R.J. Burkmar, O.L. Pescott, D.B. Roy, & K.J. Walker. [Accessed 27/06/2023]

An annual or perennial parasite which grows on the roots of Hedera species, especially Hedera hibernica and, rarely, on other cultivated Araliaceae and members of the Apiaceae. It is a plant of coastal cliffs, open rocky woodland, quarries, hedgebanks and other similar habitats. Increasingly found in urban areas, in churchyards, car parks and gardens. Lowland.


Populations of O. hederae in coastal habitats appear to be stable. Elsewhere it has been recorded with increasing frequency in gardens and urban areas. There has been an assumption in the past that inland populations in ‘artificial’ habitats, especially in eastern England, established accidentally as a contaminant of topsoil, though its light seeds are just as likely to have arrived naturally to many localities via long-distance dispersal on the wind.



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