London Rewilding: Mile End Park

Nestled in the heart of East London, this block-wide strip of green space is a real example of the beaty that giving lungs to a city offers.

Mile End Park is a unique space. Set in one of the main residential hubs of East London, just between the hulking monoliths of Canary Wharf, and the modern developments of Stratford, it highlights a unique way city's can make use of limited space to produce natural oasises. Oh and practice some rewilding too!

Mile End Park Pine Copse
A copse of pines, that very quickly leaves you feeling you're in a whole new world.

The park itself is no wider than a single city block, but serves as a long run, a stretching arm through the heart of East London. From the North it reaches Bethnal Green, beginning just below Victoria Park, it then stretches eagerly south, just minutes from Canary Wharf, and a brisk walk down to the River. It is fed by Regent's canal, which runs as a constant alongside it. In total the park, despite being narrow, is an 80 acre space - perfect for some smaller-scale rewilding. Almost the same size as LettsSafari's Dawlish Park.

Constructed out of an industrial area that had been destroyed in World War 2, Mile End Park wasn't properly consecrated until the turn of the 21st century. Thus it is a fantastic example of the way modern urban green spaces have begun to account for climate change and rewilding. The moment you arrive you feel captured by nature, nature that is given the space to grow and sustain itself. From the pathways, to the verges, Mile End Park does some excellent work marrying rewilded spaces with human life and architecture.

Mile End Park, Bush
Pathways are well maintained through Mile End Park, but in the spaces for nature, nature is left to thrive.

I did not enter the park the conventional way, instead, too excited with the prospect of getting to view something increasingly common in Europe, but as yet still rare in the UK, I began my journey at the parks' Green Bridge. A Green Bridge is a fairly innovative concept, that focuses on providing rewilded natural corridors for nature to keep a solid run over the human world. The one in Mile End Park is London's first.

It's an exciting feature, that seeing from the road highlights its importance. It connects the park, allowing humans, and more importantly, animals to pass through the long strip of Green space without risking life and limb crossing the busy road. It helps transform Mile End Park into a green lung for the city, uninterrupted.

Mile End Park, Green Bridge
The view of the Green Bridge from the street, a overflowing with nature, sun and life.

The Park itself practices many of the essential principles we preach at LettsSafari. In particular, the verges and bracken areas are left wild, for the most part. The park does maintain the verges to their appropriate levels, but beyond mowing simple strips for humans to walk over, Mile End Park's natural spaces are just that, natural. As though you were travelling through Exeter's Capability Brown Gardens, there is rich biodiversity, and plant life is left to its own devices.

As a result, the park is teeming with animals and bugs. We visited Mile End Park during London's brief heatwave (peaking at around 28C), and nevertheless birds and squirrels were easily spotted. Even easier to spot were the insects, from butterflies and moths, to caterpillars and bees, all thriving in a nutrient rich space with naturally improving soil quality.

Mile End Park, Covered Space
Paths are maintained, available for humans to walk through, but the spaces between are left wild, left to green freely.

In addition, the park also follows a couple of LettsSafari's specific approaches. In particular, trees that have been knocked down due to disease or storm damage are left to rot back into the ground, allowed to lie over the ground. This is important as any piece of wood wider than a half a meter in diameter can still effectively sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

Mile End Park, Collapsed Trunk
A collapsed trunk in Mile End Park is chopped up and allowed to rot back into the ground.

They also make use of rewilding habitats. Mile End Park has the three core habitats, wild grassland, which families and visitors can make use of for picnics or sport; wilded scrub made up of rich beds filled with diverse plant life; and open woodland, from the pines you can see over the green bridge, to a rich ecological centre which houses thick copses of tall diverse trees.

However, as a result of Regents Canal, Mile End Park also has an aquatic habitat that it surrounds with terraced gardens to create a rich pond environment. The canal eventually runs back into the Limehouse Basin, and then into the river. The canal provides life to the terrace gardens which have the richest biodiversity in the park, over 200 species of plant life and countless bird and bug life call it home.

Mile End Park, Canalside
The canal running alongside the park, providing vibrant life along its banks.

The park also essentially serves as an educational space informing the public about ecological diversity. A quarter of Mile End Park is dedicated to the "Ecological Park", a rich space just north of the Green Bridge, which houses a lake complex, providing natural spaces that have contributed homes to 45 species of bird life, as well as over 400 species of beetle, and 170 species of spider.

All of this, hidden in between the layers of London's built up space. Perhaps the most striking aspect of Mile End Park is the way it makes you feel so outside of the city. And then it shocks you with brief moments of London, subtle reminders that you remain in the metropolis.

Mile End Park Green Bridge Above, overlooking Canary Wharf.
The peak of the Green Bridge, leaving you feeling like you're out in the countryside, while you peer on the modern industrial experiment in the UK, Canary Wharf, in the distance.

Overall, Mile End Park represents an essential example of all we have advocated for here at LettsSafari. Walking around it reminded us of being in LettsSafari's Dawlish Park. We've always insisted that Dawlish Park can be replicated as a municipal park, an essential way that we can marry rewilding with urban living. Mile End Park is living proof that that is true, it's rich evidence of the importance of LettsSafari existing- we must get more spaces just like this. By subscribing to LettsSafari we can.

LettsSafari Logo, a grey Letts with an orange Safari.
Collective Action. Powerful Impact
LettsSafari Logo, a grey Letts with an orange Safari.
Collective Action. Powerful Impact