Get close to nature

  • 20
  • Jan

Gillespie Park and nature reserve is a surprising oasis of green tucked away behind Arsenal’s stadium. Spring is the perfect time to visit, says Sally Oldfield, manager of Islington Ecology Centre, as the park emerges back to life.

“The birds are nesting. It’s an active time for our ponds. We have toads, newts and frogs here. Also, everything starts growing again.

“Blackthorn blossom is the first to come out and then you get the spring woodland flowers, like bluebells, ramsons (wild garlic) and cowslips. But we don’t want people to pick.

“And the first butterfly you can see is the Brimstone, which is a beautiful light green-yellow.”

Sally has managed the Ecology Centre for 10 years. She says: “I never tire of seeing people come here and really enjoy it, particularly people who are surprised by it. We often get people saying, ‘I’ve lived here for 10 years and didn’t know it existed.’ It’s a real gem.”

Four people help run the centre, including one apprentice, 24 year-old Hassan Al-Islam from Islington, who has now completed the first year of his two-year apprenticeship.

He says: “It’s a good place to visit because nature is unique. I would say people who haven’t been here before will be surprised. The first time I came here I didn’t know what to expect.”

In March, the centre’s Sunday café is starting up again after its winter closure. There are also pond dipping sessions planned for the Easter holidays. The centre regularly has curriculum-linked school visits and its space is used by various community groups for sessions like yoga, tai chi and toddler groups.

Sally says: “Spring is a good time to get out and about, but believe it or not, we have more work in winter than in summer. In winter, there is a lot of pruning and cutting back, as well as tree and hedge work. In spring you’ve got to be careful not to disturb things.”

Islington Ecology Centre is available for hire! Call 020 7527 4374 or email.

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