About


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
  • Sitting quietly by the pond observing bird, insect and amphibian life
  • Litter picking
  • Watering the medicine garden
  • Composting your household food scraps
  • Sharing your knowledge and experiences
  • Wetlands and bat habitat management
  • Woodland management
  • Showing up for volunteer sessions and community gatherings

We ask everyone accessing the site to help care and conserve the site. Care takes many forms, adjusted for your interests, skills and abilities. We can arrange an introduction on how to support the Reserve tailored to you. 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


Weekly 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 use this link to register your availability to join.

Weekly 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.
Mondays: Rangers Kindergarten Forest School
Tuesdays: Rangers Kindergarten Forest School
Wednesday: Mission GP Practice Social Prescribing
Thursday: Stephen Hawking School Nature Club
Friday: 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. Charity number 1166648.

Our Governance Policies

Bethnal Green Nature Reserve Trustees 2024

Sajida Malik (Chair)

Gwen Wright (Treasurer)

Bryony Harris (Secretary)

Adelaide Bannerman (Trustee)

Oliver Grazebrook (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 (Treasurer) 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

Bryony Harris (Secretary) 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.

Oliver

Oliver Grazebrook is an in-house lawyer at Inmarsat and has provided pro bono legal advice to various charities. He is also a keen urban farmer and a strong believer in the mental health benefits of access to nature in urban spaces.

Site Team

Ingrid


Ingrid Chen (Forest Friday Lead) is an experienced outdoor educator and avid tree enthusiast with a particular interest in growing and nurturing trees. With 10 years of experience leading forest schools in the East End, Ingrid has established multiple outdoor education hubs that enable children and their families to connect with and better understand the natural world within the city.

Her deep love for trees and extensive background in outdoor education drive her work at the Bethnal Green Nature Reserve. As the Forest Friday Lead, Ingrid plays a crucial role in fostering a connection between urban communities and nature. Her programs are designed to inspire and educate, helping participants develop a greater appreciation for the environment and the importance of trees in urban settings.

Shilpi Choudhury (Forest School leader) is a dedicated Kindergarten and Forest School practitioner with a passion for nurturing children's connection to and confidence in the natural world, especially within urban environments like the Bethnal Green Nature Reserve. As a mother of five, Shilpi brings a wealth of personal and professional experience to her role, emphasizing the importance of nature in child development.

Shilpi enjoys baking and fruit picking, hobbies that complement her commitment to hands-on, nature-based learning. Her approach to education fosters a deep appreciation for the environment among young learners, helping them to explore and understand the natural world around them. Through her work at the Reserve, Shilpi is instrumental in creating meaningful and enriching outdoor experiences for children, laying the foundation for lifelong environmental stewardship.

Judith Stanley-Smith (Forest School leader) has a background in film design and art direction and is now a forest school leader and a community gardener. She has been working with a local school to develop a wild garden that supports local biodiversity. Having seen first hand the positive impact on well-being, and self-confidence, she is passionate about enabling children and adults to build a connection with nature via outdoor learning and forest school. She works and volunteers in several green spaces around the borough.

Edward Simpson (Site Manager) oversees the day-to-day operations of the Bethnal Green Nature Reserve, ensuring it functions as a thriving community and ecology hub. With a strong background in technical education, Edward spent the past five years as a technical coordinator at Central Foundation for Boys Secondary School, where he taught young people essential skills in woodwork, metalwork, and construction.

Recently, Edward undertook a woodland management course, further enhancing his expertise in ecological stewardship. His commitment to community learning and engagement is evident in his efforts to shape learning programs focused on woodland care within the Nature Reserve.


Abel Daniel (Deputy Site Manager)
grew up helping on his family farm, where he developed a fascination with the natural world. His early experiences nurtured a deep appreciation for nature and instilled a lifelong passion for ecology. In 2022, Abel joined our team as an ecology intern, working on the Mycelium Ecologies Project. During this period, he gained extensive knowledge about mushroom cultivation, focusing on applications for food, medicine, and ecological health. His hands-on experience and dedication allowed him to contribute significantly to the project’s success. Abel is committed to enhancing ecological research and promoting community learning. As Deputy Site Manager, he plays a vital role in maintaining the Reserve's diverse urban ecosystem and actively engages with local communities that visit our site. His work ensures that the Reserve remains a thriving environment for both wildlife and visitors, fostering a greater understanding and appreciation of nature in the community.

Izzy Johns (Community Gardener in Residence) is a foraging teacher, storyteller and weaver, and runs a foraging project called Rights For Weeds. She has been teaching foraging at the Bethnal Green Nature Reserve for four years. Izzy’s primary interest as an educator and artist is to build non-linear and non-hierarchical learning environments, which facilitate communion with the land.

As of 2024, Rights for Weeds is beginning a residency at the Phytology medicine garden in the Bethnal Green Nature Reserve. Izzy will be drawing on her learnings from time spent with the plants, foraging students, the BGNR community and from her own research. She’ll be devising a programme which integrates learning and management practises, nurturing both the garden and its users.

Michael Smythe (Co-founder & Senior Site Manager) is an artist and the creative director of Nomad Projects, an independent arts foundation known for developing experimental projects in both digital and location-specific spaces.

His work focuses on blending cultural activities with ecological and social themes, creating projects that aim to connect communities with the natural world found within the city.


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