The Bethnal Green Nature Reserve is a cultural institute focused on ecological research and community learning in the heart of East London.

We host an annual residency for researchers working across the humanities, architecture and science. Our public programme actively engages with the environmental and social complexities of the surrounding urban landscape. The projects page on this website highlights some of our past and current work.

This space is a WW2 bomb-site that has been cared for since 1977 by local residents, volunteers, staff, trustees and its non-human inhabitants. The Nature Reserve has a delicate and complex ecosystem of plants, bats, birds, trees, soil, fungi, amphibians, insects, invertebrates and mammals (including people). We collectively want this space to exist and nurture a diverse urban ecosystem for many years to come.

How to get involved: We invite anyone to become a site caretaker. Site care can take many forms, including:

  • Treading softly and keeping to the paths
  • Litter picking
  • Watering the medicine garden
  • Composting
  • Attending to the compost toilet
  • Wetlands and bat habitat management
  • Woodland management
  • Showing up for volunteer sessions and working days

We ask everyone accessing the site to help care and conserve the site. We can arrange an introduction on how to support the Reserve tailored to your interests and abilities. Taking care of the Reserve is a great opportunity to connect with the natural world on your doorstep.

Please contact info@bethnalgreennaturereserve.org if you would like to join our team or hear more about the history of this unusual and remarkable place. We are a small organisation so thanks for your patience while waiting for a reply.

Opening Hours 2023

~ 11am – 1pm Saturdays, Volunteer Sessions (6th May - 26th November)

A weekly activity where people can learn how to help care for the Nature Reserve. We have x10 places each week so please book by emailing info@bethnalgreennaturereserve.org or speaking with our team during opening hours.

~ 2pm – 5pm Saturdays, Public Opening Hours (6th May - 26th November)

The Nature Reserve is open for everyone to explore the medicine garden, ponds, woodland, and mushroom farm. It’s also a good time to meet the site team and hear how to get involved as a Friend of the Bethnal Green Nature Reserve.

Weekday Schedule
The Nature Reserve is hub for learning and wellbeing throughout the week with several local organisations in residence:
~ Mondays
: Rangers Kindergarten Forest School
~ Tuesdays:
Rangers Kindergarten Forest School
~ Wednesday:
Stephen Hawking School Nature Club
~ Thursday:
Mission GP Practice Social Prescribing
~ Friday:
Praxis Wellbeing Classes, Forest Friday After-school Club

Bethnal Green Nature Reserve Trust (BGNR Trust) is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation established in April, 2016. Registered Charity No.1166648

Our Objects

To promote for the benefit of the public the conservation protection and improvement of the physical and natural environment of Bethnal Green Nature Reserve, as a place of ecological and historical interest in particular but not exclusively by educating the public about the site and encouraging its use for recreation and interpretation through the arts.

The Bethnal Green Nature Reserve is a rare and extraordinary place. An old bomb-site that has gone back to nature, it has been nurtured and preserved over time by local people who have seen it not as waste ground, but as an urban haven for biodiversity.

The Bethnal Green Nature Reserve has been a resource for educational groups, for environmentalists and - over the past eight years - the base for the ‘Phytology’ medicinal field, enhancing the biodiversity of the extensive site.

We now want to build a wider network of support for this important piece of London land by forming the ‘Friends of Bethnal Green Nature Reserve’ to nurture, develop, promote and protect this indispensable place.

Bethnal Green Nature Reserve Trustees 2023/24

Sajida Malik (Chair)

Gwen Wright (Treasurer)

Glenda Trew (Trustee)

Adelaide Bannerman (Trustee)

Neil Davidson (Trustee)

Glenda Trew (Trustee) is an urban farming advocate and master composter who has established over 20 community garden projects working alongside the Women’s Environmental Network. She is an experienced teacher, delivering hands-on community focused food growing workshops, specialising in non-traditional UK crops. Glenda is also a world renowned Oware champion, currently ranked 1st in the UK!

Sajida Malik (Chair) is an early years teacher, who campions outdoor play for all. In 2018 Sajida opened Rangers Kindergarten in Bethnal Green, offering Steiner inspired play and education for all children regardless of their economic background. Sajida has over 30 years experience in the Early Years sectors and is deeply connected to nature and play based learning.

Neil Davidson (Trustee) is a Landscape Architect and Partner of J & L Gibbons, Director of Landscape Learn. His expertise includes sub-regional strategic plans, public realm frameworks, heritage landscapes and public parks. He has worked and lectured in Europe and the United States and is a Built Environment Expert for the Design Council CABE.

Adelaide Bannerman is a freelance curator in the visual arts, living and working for many years in the neighbourhood surrounding the Bethnal Green Nature Reserve. Bannerman currently works for Tiwani Contemporary and is a Trustee of Idle Women, Lancashire and Publics, Helsinki.

Gwen Wright has lived around the corner from the Nature Reserve for the past 20+ years. She retrained as a lawyer in mid-life but her first career was as a mental health social worker. Gwen has been active for many years in local community groups and is a school governor of Columbia Primary School on Columbia Road, East London.

The Team

Ingrid Chen (Forest Friday Lead) is an outdoor educator and tree lover with a particular interest in growing them. She has 10 years experience leading forest schools in the East End, and has established multiple outdoor education hubs, enabling children and their families to connect and better understand the natural world found within the city.

Shilpi Choudhury (Forest Friday Teacher) is a Kindergarten and Forest School practitioner and mother of 5 who enjoys baking and fruit picking. Shilpi is dedicated to nurturing children's connection and confidence of the natural world, especially in the urban environments such as the Bethnal Green Nature Reserve.

Edward Simpson is the site manager, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Nature Reserve as a community and ecology hub. Over the past five years Edward has been a technical coordinator at Central Foundation for Boys Secondary School, where taught technical skills involving woodwork, metal work and construction for young people. Edward has recently undertaken a woodland management course and has been shaping community learning and engagement around woodland care within the Nature Reserve.

Margaret Cox (Co-Founder) is a local instigator of one of the largest networks of community allotments in East London, transforming her estate into a food growing hub. She is also the Chair of the Teesdale & Hollybush Tenants and Residents Association, which have taken stewardship of the 1-acre parcel of land, known as Bethnal Green Nature Reserve, since the late 1990s. Cox has lived in the neighbourhood since she was 9, and has been visiting and caring for the Bethnal Green Nature Reserve for the past 50+ years.

Michael Smythe (Co-Founder) is an artist and creative director of Nomad Projects, an independent arts foundation that develops experimental projects across digital and location-specific spaces. Nomad Projects critically engages with issues surrounding environmental and social justice within the urban landscape.

Naseem Fatima Khan OBE {11 August 1939 – 8 June 2017} (Co-Founder)
was a British journalist, activist, cultural historian and educator who was influential in effecting policy change about cultural diversity. She wrote a report entitled The Arts Britain Ignores in 1976, which was the first major study highlighting the integral part played in UK culture by black and Asian artists, and also that year she founded the Minority Arts Advisory Service (MAAS). As a journalist she was one of the first theatre reviewers for Time Out magazine, and later wrote regularly for publications including the New Statesman, The Guardian and The Independent.

Email - info@bethnalgreennaturereserve.org if you would like to become a Bethnal Green Nature Reserve Friend.

©2023 Bethnal Green Nature Reserve Trust