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.

2024 Opening Hours
Volunteering ~ Winter Season 2023/24

Over the winter months we take some time off to rest and restore the land. This dormancy period is also when the site team plan for the spring and summer months. Over winter will be holding occasional volunteer sessions, ensuring the site remains accessible to anyone curious to learn about the Nature Reserve.

Winter volunteer dates

11am – 1pm Saturday, 16th December 2023
11am – 1pm Saturday, 20th January 2024
11am – 1pm Saturday, 17th February 2024
11am – 1pm Saturday, 16th March 2024
11am – 1pm Saturday, 6th April 2024

Please use this link to register your availability to join our winter sessions.

Volunteer Sessions, 11am – 1pm Saturdays (4th May - 30th November 2024)

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.

Public Opening Hours, 2pm – 5pm Saturdays (4th May - 30th 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 2024

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

Please get in touch if you would like more information when planning your visit info@bethnalgreennaturereserve.org

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 2024

Sajida Malik (Chair)

Gwen Wright (Treasurer)

Adelaide Bannerman (Trustee)

Oliver Grazebrook (Trustee)

Bryony Harris (Trustee)

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.

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.


Bryony Harris is a cultural producer and project manager within the visual arts, most recently working with Wellcome Collection and Whitechapel Gallery to champion creative and collaborative practice rooted in social and environmental justice. She lives locally to the Nature Reserve and is very interested in the principles of permaculture, women-led eco-building, getting her body into water and her hands and feet into mud.

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 (Site Manager) oversees 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.

Michael Smythe (Site Manager) 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 justice within the urban landscape.

Glenda Trew
(Associate 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!

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.

©2024 Bethnal Green Nature Reserve Trust