Islington Ecology Centre and Gillespie Park LNR
LocationNearest town or settlement: Islington
Contact detailsContact name: Sally Oldfield
Organisation: Islington Council
Tel: 020 7527 4374
Website: Islington Ecology centre
Gillespie Park is both a nature reserve and a public park. It is a place for both nature and people to mix. The reserve is 2.8 Ha in size. Over 90 species of bird, twenty species of butterfly and over 500 species of plants have been recorded on the site. These numbers are very good for an urban nature reserve of this size. People also use the park for a wide variety of uses including dog walking, picnicking, playing ball games and just siting and relaxing. Also once a year there is a community festival with over 2000 people attending.
Gillespie Park consists of a mixture of naturally established and created habitats. Habitats created during the landscaping phase 1981/82 within the park at the lower level include wetland, deciduous and evergreen mixed woodland, hedgerows and summer meadows. Pockets of original vegetation, which have evolved on site and were retained during landscaping include neutral grassland, bramble, scrub and secondary woodland dominated by Goat Willow, Silver Birch, Aspen and Plum.
All created habitats have matured well and now support a diverse range of species. The woodlands in particular are now show a developing woodland structure, following planting to improve ground flora and under-storey, along with some natural regeneration and colonisation.
Although the land itself is entirely made up as a result of excavations for railway tunnels (1873 - 1894), the grasslands have evolved spontaneously and include naturally occurring rarities. When surveyed a total of 244 plant species were found. Species occurring in the grassland which were new to the borough included:, Grass Vetchling, Narrow leaved Birds Foot Trefoil - no other north London site, and Narrow-leaved Meadow Grass. In July 2000 a Pyramidal Orchid flowered also new to the borough. In June 2002 another orchid was found flowering, four Bee Orchid plants were discovered in one of the meadows.
Resident amphibians include Common Frog, Common Toad and Smooth Newt ,well established populations make use of the main pond within the old park boundaries and are colonising other ponds in the vicinity aided by additional conservation measures. In addition the parks first reptiles have been introduced: over sixty slow-worms were rescued from a development in another part of London and re-located to a new home.
Sidings were laid along the railway for coal depots in 1878 and covered most of the site. In 1872 the factory, H C Stephens, was opened on the north-east corner of the site. They manufactured inks, carbon papers, gum and office utensils.
The demand for coal steadily declined due to The Clean Air Acts and the introduction of gas as a means of heating peoples' homes.
The Park proved to be popular with local people and, from the outset, links were developed with local primary schools who were involved in many planting schemes.