We host weekly volunteer sessions each Saturday 11am – 1pm, 6th May till 25th November, 2023.
The Nature Reserve will be open for drop-in visits each Saturday 2pm – 5pm, 6th May till 25th November, 2023.
No prior booking is required during this time.
Phytology, Bethnal Green Nature Reserve,
Middleton Street, London E2 9RR
We are an off-grid, out door space that host workshops, events and learning opportunities all year.
Our site is step-free and wheelchair accessible. We have a very comfortable wheelchair accessible compost toilet and baby changing facilities.
Visitors should note that we do use wood-chip on our pathways, which may be difficult for a self-aided wheelchair (when the wood-chip has been freshly laid). Aided or electric wheelchairs seem to be fine when wood-chip is freshly laid. Some areas of the Nature Reserve have small pathways and uneven ground/surfaces, so not all areas of the site are easily accessible.
Visitors are advised to always wear suitable clothing and footwear; and be mindfulness of rain, cold or hot weather.
The Nature Reserve is a dynamic and multilayered ecosystem, so insect bites/stings can happen. We advise all visitors to notify our staff of any allergic responses you may have if bitten/stung so we can all be appropriately prepared during your visit.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any access questions or requests in advance of your visit.
We are always eager to accommodate your needs and improve our sites accessibility.
Even though we are in zone 2 there are limited transport or parking provisions for people with limited mobility.Here is a basic guide for the local transport infrastructure.
Roadside parking is metered between 8:30am – 5:30pm, Monday till Sunday @ £4.70 per hour, two hours maximum parking.Parking is free on Bank holidays.There are no dedicated accessible parking places in the vicinity.Please visit Parkopedia for more information on local parking options.
Bethnal Green Tube Station is located 0.3 miles (5 minutes) walk from the Nature Reserve.
This station does not have step-free access.
More information of accessible Tube stations can be found here.
Cambridge Heath Overground Station is located 0.3 miles (5 minutes) from the Nature Reserve. This station does not have step-free access.
Various busses are available on both Hackney Road, Cambridge Heath Road and Bethnal Green Road. These include: 8, 106, 254, 309, 388, D3, D6, 26, 55 and night routes N8, N55, N26 and N253 serve the station on Bethnal Green Road and Cambridge Heath Road.
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:
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 email@example.com if you would like to join our team or hear more about the history of this unusual and remarkable place. We are a voluntary group so we really appreciate your patience while waiting for a reply.
The Phytology medicinal field is situated within the north west corner of the Bethnal Green Nature Reserve. The area’s rural past is now invisible through most of the borough. The Bethnal Green Nature Reserve is a rare example of a place where it is still possible to have a sense of continued history.
Records and old maps show that fields, market gardens and nursery gardens persisted here from mediaeval. In 1717 records describe the area as ’47 acres of meadow and pasture’. When industrialisation arrived in the 19th Century it brought urban poverty with it and an end to rural Bethnal Green.
In 1839 the Bishop of London called it ‘one of the most desolate parishes’. He undertook to build ten new churches and in 1842 the acreage was bought and work on St Jude’s began. The church took four years to build and finally opened its doors in 1846. It was a grand church, big enough to hold one thousand worshippers, and performed an active social functions with library, food kitchen, institute and school.
In 1940, during the Second World War, it was bombed and totally destroyed. The ruins of the complex remained untouched for years gradually becoming wilder and wilder.
Eventually a few local people – including a core group of mothers who were home-schooling their children – realised its value. Helped by the Environment Trust they started to clear the land.
In the 1970s the Tower Hamlets Council decided to fence the site in and lock it up to protect the area from fly-tipping. In the late 1990s the local Teesdale and Hollybush Tenants and Residents Association became the site custodians and, with the support of Tower Hamlets Council, took responsibility for St Jude’s as it was still called locally. They have been caring for it devotedly ever since.
Since St Jude is the patron saint of lost causes they changed its name to the more hopeful (and appropriate) Bethnal Green Nature Reserve. Plants grown today in the Nature Reserve as part of Phytology have a similarly long history. Our planting scheme would have been recognised by the Old English Herbarium that was translated from a 5th century Latin text in around 1,000 AD. A widely used text, it detailed the medicinal use of plants and continued to be popular in Britain and across Europe for centuries. Its lessons have long been part of traditional knowledge.
The Bethnal Green Nature Reserve and Phytology medicine garden can be visited on other days by pre-arranged appointment.
©2023 Bethnal Green Nature Reserve Trust