(c) Jeff Knott - looking out for nature at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
In today's Why Policy Matters blog, Jeff Knott, RSPB Director of Policy & Advocacy reflects on his recent visit to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the RSPB's partnership work with idverde to make the site a haven for nature and the community.
I have a bit of a confession – I’m an utter sports tragic. From football to netball to pro wrestling, I can and do get very over-excited about any and all competitive sports.
So it was with great excitement last week that I headed to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the site of the 2012 London Olympics.
I never actually made it to the main stadium during the Olympics, but I’ve been to the London Stadium since to see baseball and re-build my long personal links with West Ham (see photographic evidence below!), as well as regularly attending the Copper Box – another venue in the park which is the home of London Pulse and England netball.
(c) Jeff Knott - a young Jeff Knott with Harry Redknapp
In all those visits, I’ve often noticed the lush green banks, the wildflowers and the winding river habitats, but it wasn’t until last week that I really got to see the breadth of work for wildlife across the park.
The RSPB has been in partnership with idverde, the largest ground maintenance company in the UK, for six years this year, aiming to improve biodiversity in the greenspaces managed by idverde and connect local communities to nature.
The London Legacy Development Corporation, who look after the park, have awarded the management contract to idverde for the next 10 years, so our partnership has a great opportunity to improve biodiversity at the Park over a long period of time.
When I visited, it was great to spend time with Tom Bellamy, the RSPB Biodiversity Manager for the site, who is leading efforts to deliver for nature across the Olympic Park’s 558 acres, spread across four boroughs.
Since the Olympics, the park has become a major site for the local community and its visitors and includes some lovely greenspaces – critical for nature and human wellbeing. A key part of this is Tom’s work to create the best habitats for 28 priority species and where the land can make a real contribution to bringing people closer to wildlife. Check out this video of Tom and his volunteers to see the hard work which underpins this oasis.
(c) Jeff Knott - Jeff Knott and Tom Bellamy
One of Tom’s highlights which we saw last week, was improving the purpose-built Sand Martin bank in the South Park. Shortening the entrance tubes, opening the area up to reduce predator perches and packing the nesting chambers with unwashed Thames sand, which was donated as part of the RSPB partnership with CEMEX, have helped make the area so much more attractive. And judging by the number of Sand Martins buzzing up and down the river, they certainly appreciate his efforts.
Urban nature is so important. Its easy to think the wildest bits of our wild isles are all “out there” on remote islands and far-flung spots. But these green spaces close to people are so key, both for the wildlife and for the millions of people who live, work and play in these areas. If you haven’t already do watch the Saving Our Wild Isles film which include the amazing transformation at Cody dock.
As well as the Sand Martins, we saw Peregrine, Cetti’s Warbler and so much more. It only seems a matter of time before Kingfishers and Otters move in to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – an emerging, thriving community for people and for wildlife!