In Wapping, East London is a long narrow strip of land between houses and the pavement that, if you can find the entrance, conceals a woodland walk to explore.
A decade ago, this strip of parkland was pretty much what passes for municipal planting – some trees and the ground covered over with low maintenance densely planted shrubbery that you see in every housing estate. Then, in 2012, a group of locals got together to clear the monoculture away and replace it with a much more varied and wildlife-friendly planting, and also to open up the strip of land so that people can walk into it instead of it being too overgrown to be explorable.
What is known as the Vaughan Way Wildlife Garden has now been landscaped with a winding path, nesting boxes, insect hotels and benches for people to sit on.
That sparked the creation of the E1 Community Gardeners, who now look after a range of public spaces dotted around this part of London. They’re just about to take over the management of a plot of land next to the western side of Shadwell Overground Station.
But back to Vaughan Way Wildlife Garden, although it’s not immediately obvious if you walk past, there’s a winding path in there to discover, and a couple of entrances to get into it.
Once inside the path, there’s a nice recessed niche for a park bench, and while I won’t try to identify specific planting, there’s a rich bed of plants all around with a huge variety that is a marked contrast to what was here before. One space is clearly a work area, and also has a cluster of bird feeders to cater to the non-human users of the woodland park and delight the humans waiting for the local buses just a few metres away on the pavement.
It’s very easy to not be aware that there’s a properly managed pocket park going on here, as while it looks rather better than most from the pavement, if you don’t spot the paths leading off, and lack a curious sense of adventure to see what’s down there, you might never know the woodland walk is open to visitors.
Last October, they turned the pocket park into a Halloween space, with ghosts, witches, skeletons and a giant spider web hanging among the trees and shrubs. So maybe pay a visit at the end of October for spooky goings on.