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 and young trees
  • Composting
  • Attending to the compost toilet
  • Wetlands and bat habitat management
  • Woodland management
  • Showing up for volunteer sessions and working days
  • Attending our Annual General Meeting’s each Autumn

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 times

We host weekly volunteer sessions each Saturday
6 May 26 November 2023

The Nature Reserve will be open for drop-in visits each Saturday
2pm 5pm
6 May 25 November 2023

No prior booking is required during this time.

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)

Ellie Doney (Secretary)

Gwen Wright (Treasurer)

Saif Osmani (Trustee)

Glenda Trew (Trustee)

Adelaide Bannerman (Trustee)

Tyra Enchill (Associate Trustee)

Gino Brignoli (Trustee)

May Ling Thomas (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. Opened Rangers Kindergarten in Bethnal Green in 2018, 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.

Neil Davidson (Trustee) is a Landscape Architect and Partner of J & L Gibbons, Director of Landscape Learn and a research partner of Urban Mind. 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.

Saif Osmani (Trustee) is an artist operating predominantly within architecture. His practice inquires into socio-cultural ruptures resulting from changes in the built environment. Born in London, he is of Sylheti-Bangladeshi origin and has a studio located in East London. After graduating from Chelsea College of Art & Design Saif worked for 10 years at leading architecture firms. In 2019/20 he received an Aziz Foundation Scholarship to complete his Masters in Architecture & Historic Urban Environments at UCL Bartlett School of Architecture. Recently he was artist-in-residence/ visiting fellow at Loughborough University London. Previously he has been a visiting tutor at University for the Creative Arts in Canterbury. He occasionally lectures at Loughborough University's Media and Creative Industries and for UCL's planning and geography departments.

Ellie Doney (Secretary) is a Londoner, artist, arts organiser and materials / making enthusiast. She has led and worked on local cross-disciplinary and site-responsive arts projects since 2005, and co-founded Studio Manifold, a materials-led artist’s group.Over the last 20 years she has worked in community, workshop, communication and public art roles at Hoxton Hall, Wallspace Gallery, Canary Wharf, Institute of Contemporary Arts and Institute of Making.She studied materials and making at University of Brighton and ceramics and glass at Royal College of Art, and is currently working towards a PhD at the Slade School of Fine Art. Her PhD is based on how cooking and eating together can help us understand human-material ecologies. Ellie was artist in residence at Phytology/BGNR in 2016/17 and feels great affection for the place and its ongoing animal and material inhabitants.

May Ling Thomas (Trustee) is a certified transformative coach, home-educating mother of two, and part of the holding team of Gamechangers, the East London Play and Learning Collective. In a previous incarnation May Ling had a career in IT and Business Analysis. Since then, her problem-solving has become more social-systems oriented (i.e. people and power) and May Ling cares deeply about living with integrity and supporting personal autonomy, especially in children, in service of the wider community.

Tyra Enchill (Associate Trustee) (she/her) is a multi/interdisciplinary ecologist in training and researcher from London. Her ongoing work is to question the political and socio-historical complexities of human-environment relationships and knowledge. In facilitating work towards social and racial justice, she is continually imagining what an integrated ecological justice practice could be, and how we might ally “nature” in collective and embodied healing.

Tyra earned a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences (BASc) degree from University College London with First-Class Honours, learning across biology, ecology, anthropology, political ecology, regenerative medicines, science journalism, and species conservation and biodiversity. She first arrived at the Bethnal Green Nature Reserve as an ecology intern in Autumn 2021.

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.

Shumaisa Khan (Community Gardener, Researcher) interests have taken her through the realms of social sciences, international development, and grassroots movements, all underpinned by her interest in advancing ecological and social justice. In recent years, she has also been exploring traditional healing systems, plant medicine, and regenerative food systems as vehicles to repair both cultural and ecological distress. She feels arts and humanities are crucial, particularly at this juncture of extreme polarisation, in facilitating different ways of expression, and creating spaces for dialogue and reflection.

Dimuthu Meehitiya (Ecologist and Environmental Educator) has worked in conservation for over 25 years, specialising in multiple urban biodiversity enhancement projects, outdoor learning and ecological surveying. Educated in Environmental Management at Manchester Metropolitan University, he has subsequently worked for organisations such as the London Wetland Centre, the London Wildlife Trust, Bristol Science Centre and the brilliant Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park.

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. She referred to herself as the Nature Reserve's “Mum”.

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. Michael studied installation, performance and art history at the Australian National University, Canberra, and Hochschule Der Künste, Berlin.

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