London’s biggest new public park for more than a century was officially opened today by leading environmentalist Professor David Bellamy.
The 280 acres of parkland ranges from finely detailed garden courtyards to reconstructed countryside, wood and meadow. To encourage public access, it includes 12 kilometres of paths and bridleways.
Ancient meadows have been recreated using specially harvested seed to re-introduce the flowers and grasses once common to the area, and 60,000 trees and shrubs planted. Three small neglected rivers have been cleared to encourage wildlife and vegetation and new ponds and lakes have been created.
More than 100 species of birds have been spotted by rangers in the park including lapwings, skylarks and greater spotted woodpeckers. Mammal surveys have indicated the presence of grey squirrels, mink, fox, field voles, weasels and harvest mice.
The parkland, which surrounds British Airways’ corporate headquarters at Harmondsworth, near Heathrow, was handed over to the community by the airline today in a ceremony attended by hundreds of local residents and schoolchildren.
The airline acquired the land, which had been used as a refuse tip, in 1998 to house its new corporate headquarters, Waterside. Since then the surrounding area - previously “out of bounds” to the public - has been decontaminated and extensively landscaped.
Speaking at the official opening, Lord Marshall, British Airways’ Chairman, said: “Transforming a rundown area of Harmondsworth into London’s largest new public park has been a massive undertaking but we’re delighted with the results. We hope it provides our employees and neighbours with many hours of enjoyment as well as a haven for wildlife.”