The Stave Hill Ecology Park (6 acres) and the adjoining Russia Docks Woodlands (36 acres) have been created out of the former Surrey Commercial Docks when the docks closed in the 1970s. This marshy area alongside the Thames has been the site of docks in one form or another from 1696 to 1969. The first dock in the area, and only the second in London, was the Howland Great Wet Dock which was dug out at the end of 17C as a shelter for ships waiting to enter the docks upstream. It was later renamed the Greenland Docks and remains as a dock today, alongside the Park and Woodlands.
There are several entrances into the Park, one of which is up Dock Hill Avenue to Stave Hill which looks rather like an ancient burial mound and from which there are wonderful views over the woods, Canary Wharf, and towards the City. The Hill was created with rubble when the Albion Channel was dug, connecting the Surrey Water with Canada Water, both the remains of docks, and both still there today, calm, peaceful and teeming with wildlife.
The Ecology Park is a calm and restful nature reserve in which to wander. The trees grow thickly, but there are also grassy dells and a long meadow. There is no traffic noise and the birds surround you with a variety of songs; if you look up you will see bird boxes pinned to the tree trunks everywhere. Dead hedges and piles of logs cater for the beetles, bugs, and hedgehogs, and I am sure there will be resident foxes. It is a good place to refresh the spirit.
Conservation work and ideas for environmentally friendly fencing and wildlife protection are everywhere.
The flowers are just gorgeous at this time of the year! And the bees are absolutely frenetic!
Do visit on 17 and 18 June during Open Garden Squares Weekend, but also at any other time of the year. There is no charge and the woods and open spaces take you far out of London, into a peaceful countryside. It refreshes the spirit and you are able to return to the nervous energy of London.
The Docklands Nature Reserves
A Short HIstory of the Surrey Commercial Docks