Rewilding The Island Park at St Ives, Cornwall

Urban rewilding Cornwall style!

Mar 24, 2023

The beautiful coastal town of St Ives, home to Dame Barbara Hepworth and host to the 47th G7 summit in 2021, has been developing an urban rewilding project at The Island park (see video above). This breathtaking place is wrapped around a windswept mount between the two main beaches of St Ives and surrounded on three sides by the sea. It is an interesting example of urban, community centred rewilding in a high profile location. One well worth checking out.

St Nicholas Chapel sits in the middle of the park - a nod to the patron saint of sailors. Photographed through the wild scrub.

The stunning St Nicholas Chapel sits as the centrepiece to the municipal park. The park has been carefully developed for the enjoyment of the locals and visitors with a rewilded area surrounded by mowed grassy spaces and rocky beaches. It is heartening to see land and marine conservation in harmony in such a small space - a little over 20 acres!

The main hill up to the chapel is split in half - one half for humans (left of image) and the other for wildlife and natural plant regeneration

The rewilded section, mostly the inner few acres of the park, effortlessly combines wild plants, wildflower and tall, wild grasses that butt up against open scrub that includes creeping bramble, wild shrubs, gorse and ferns. This sometimes waist high scrub hosts a loud and wide variety of birds, with ground nesting apparent in a number of places.

A rich combination of wild plants, flower, grasses and open scrub

The bird life takes full advantage of the ground cover and rich, vegetation - a great place to forage for food! Small mammals exist alongside them in this miniature wilderness. And helpfully, the humans and their dogs keep to their half so that the wildlife can enjoy their part.

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“You stay your side and I’ll keep to mine!”

The vegetation, in parts, is so rich that it resembles a wild kitchen garden! Coastal plants combine effortlessly with a seemingly endless variety of other wild plants and wildflowers. It seems that this place is carefully curated to provide a year round display for its human visitors while providing a rich tapestry of ground cover and food sources for the wildlife. Insects abound in every corner.


Just a few trees pop up in this largely open space. If there was one criticism of this stunning little park it would be for it to encourage a few more trees. If they planted smaller varieties such as the one below, placed correctly, they would not impede the incredible sea vistas. But they would provide more habitats for wildlife while removing a little more carbon for the town.

At every point this small municipal park effortlessly reminds us of the wider task at hand - splitting our effort and land between spaces for fun and places for wildlife and wild vegetation to thrive. It is as if this space is designed to become a model LettsSafari park one day! We can only hope…

The amazing sea town at the southern tip of England punches way above its weight as an artist paradise and art centre - initially drawn here by the amazing light and wild landscape, distant from the ravages of WWII like New York’s Long Island drew the abstract expressionists to its shores. Not that it needs it, but it seems that now there is another reason to visit this inspiring place. Town councillors and activists should take note as they push for greater urban greening.

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