Rewilding Hyde Park
The latest in our 'urban rewilding' series goes behind the scenes at the nascent rewilding project in London's Hyde Park
Hyde Park in London, like Central Park in New York, is one of the world’s most visited parks. It is also becoming one of the first city parks to begin a rewilding adventure. LettsSafari was invited to check out how the project was going, nearly a year in.
Hyde Park is one of the most famous public green spaces in London. It is the largest of the four royal parks and stretches from Kensington to Buckingham Palace. It is visited by nearly 13 million people a year.
Like all city parks it used to be carefully manicured with grasses aggresively mowed, tightly pruned trees and practically no wild spaces. Its wildlife was sparse. A haven for humans and almost no other species.
“But now, something is changing.”
London’s newly established rewilding fund will focus on 20-30 sites, including Hyde Park, to protect species including stag beetles, sparrows, peregrine falcons and water voles. London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has stated an aim for all Londoners to live within a 10-minute walk of green space, with his scheme aiming to connect existing spaces so everyone in the capital can enjoy nature.
The rewilding fund has injected an initial £600,000 to start to rewild Hyde Park. One of its most senior advisors, Ben Goldsmith, a LettsSafari member, visited some of the LettsSafari parks in 2020 and, it seems, his visit has inspired some of the inputs into London’s rewilding.
The project is in its early phases but the early progress with wilder habitat development can be seen dotted around - including grasses left to grow wild, verges of wild flower, reeds by waterways and large tree limbs left on the ground to rot into the earth, improving the soil and supporting healthy bug growth.
Over time it is hoped the work will help tackle problems that plague Londoners including flooding and air pollution: Improving floodplains, rewiggling streams and boosting the health of rivers which could alleviate floods, while planting more greenery to ease air pollution.
The £600,000 investment aims to restore rivers and bring back a number of furry and feathery creatures, including beavers, stags, sparrows, water voles and even peregrine falcons. When it comes to Hyde Park, that means making things a little less polished and a lot wilder.
And as per LettsSafari’s Devon Capability Brown gardens sculptures are a major feature - highlighting issues, creating focal points and further engaging the public.
We always imagined a day when larger urban spaces might become model LettsSafari parks with carbon removal at their core, and cattle grids and perimeter fences in place to enable wildlife to get more seriously re-introduced. A series of urban reserves for wild grasses and scrub to abound and for insects and birds to return. Maybe even a red deer or a bison one day?
Hyde Park has a long way to go before it can claim to be a rewilding safari park, but, its beginning is clear to see, and, if they keep going, it could become a model city space and a featured LettsSafari Park for our members to cherish, learn from and support.
For now, the project at Hyde Park is enough to start to imagine a truly wild space laid out here to inspire us one day. Here’s to hoping.
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