Designated Sites

Places designated for their wildlife value are at the core of nature’s recovery; refuges from where wildlife can expand out into surrounding areas, given the chance.

Sites of Special Scientific Interest

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) are the country’s best wildlife and geological sites. Hampstead Heath Woods SSSI, part of the Kenwood Estate managed by English Heritage, is the only SSSI in Camden. SSSI is a statutory designation, and these sites receive a strong level of protection through legislation.

Site of Importance for Nature Conservation

A Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) is an area that is considered important for its biodiversity value at a London, borough or local level. Designations are declared by the local authority in conjunction with the London Wildlife Sites Board. It is a non-statutory designation, meaning such sites have no protection in law. However, in Camden they are afforded some protection from development through the planning process through policies in the Local Plan .

There are a number of ‘grades’ of SINC designation, reflecting the scale of importance of the area, from Metropolitan for sites important for London, including Hampstead Heath and the Regent’s Canal, to those important at a Local level, with a couple of grades for sites important at a Borough level in between. 

Camden has 38 areas designated as Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation, covering almost 414 hectares. Some of these are managed by the Council, the rest owned by various organisations, most notably the City of London Corporation, the Royal Parks and Network Rail. These SINCs form the core of Camden’s wildlife network.

Local Nature Reserves

Local Nature Reserves (LNRs) are sites that are important for wildlife and provide local communities with opportunities to access and engage with nature. They are designated by local authorities, in consultation with Natural England, and as a statutory designation they are afforded some protection through legislation and planning policy. There are four Local Nature Reserves in Camden: Adelaide, Belsize Wood, Westbere Copse, and Camley Street Natural Park
 

 

Biodiversity Strategy

On the 7th October 2019 Camden Council declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency. As part of that declaration, the council committed to “…produce a new ecological plan for Camden to sustain and improve biodiversity in Camden…” and to encourage “…all citizens, businesses, and organisations or groups in the borough of Camden to join with the Council to…protect and improve biodiversity, in order to avert impending catastrophe.”

The first part of that ecological plan, a Biodiversity Strategy, went out for public consultation between March and May 2021. Click on the following link to access the consultation pages:

Camden's Biodiversity Strategy

The Strategy sets out a vision, a number of objectives, and the process we are going to follow to achieve them. It has been informed by the biodiversity consultation we started in 2020, conversations with organisations across the borough, lessons learned from our previous biodiversity work, and national plans to help nature.

We are currently developing responses to the comments submitted and will be editing the Strategy accordingly.

Habitats

There are many different types of habitat across the Borough, from the neatly mown amenity grassland of our parks to the ancient Ken Wood, from the Regent’s Canal to the spring-fed wet grassland flushes at Waterlow Park, and from small private gardens to extensive green roofs on office blocks.   

Amenity grassland is the most prevalent habitat and is widely distributed across Camden. While it has limited value for wildlife it does offer significant scope for improvement where this does not conflict with other needs – something the Council has been actively pursuing. Woodland is the second commonest habitat and supports a wide range of wildlife, mainly in the north of the borough or along railway embankments.

There are several habitats in Camden that have declined nationally and are of principal importance  for nature conservation. This includes woodland, neutral grassland, acid grassland, reedbeds, heathland, and ponds and canals.

How to help nature

Sharing your space with nature - Gardening for wildlife

There are around 48,000 gardens in Camden, covering over 400 hectares, but even if you only have space for a window box or a plant pot or two you can do something for nature. One of the best things you can do is provide food for insects and other animals by growing wildlife-friendly plants, and putting up bird, bat or insect boxes can also help.

The following links provide some useful guides for helping wildlife in the garden

Lending a hand - Volunteering

Many people do not have a garden of their own. If you don’t have your own outdoor space, there are opportunities to help look after other areas, like our nature reserves, community gardens and parks. One of the simplest ways to do this is to join the group that helps look after your nearest Park (information can usually be found on the Park noticeboard), but there are several opportunities across the Borough.

Lending your eyes and ears - recording wildlife sightings

Despite all we do know about Camden’s wildlife, we also know there are gaps in our knowledge. Having a good understanding of where wildlife is helps us to protect it and connect it, increasing its chances of surviving and thriving. Everyone can help contribute to our knowledge and fill these gaps by recording wildlife, whether it’s by submitting an occasional bird sighting, taking part in national annual citizen science projects like the Big Garden Bird Count or the Big Butterfly Count, or undertaking a more detailed survey. Wildlife sightings are welcome from anywhere whether seen from your window or spotted in a nature reserve or park.

All wildlife sightings can be submitted to Greenspace Information for Greater London
 
The RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch, which doesn’t have to be done in a garden, takes place in winter and the Big Butterfly Count takes place in summer  

London-specific wildlife recording links include:

The Bat Conservation Trust runs a number of different surveys through the National Bat Monitoring Programme. The Sunset Survey is ideal for those with those without any previous bat surveying experience, though there are online resources and workshops to build up the skills to help with the other surveys. 

Being a ‘conscious consumer’

Much biodiversity loss around the world is a result of global demand, and so the food we eat and the things we buy may, directly or indirectly, be a part of this. Production of palm oil, used in almost 50% of the packaged products we find in supermarkets, is a major driver of deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia, and the production of soy has led to huge areas of deforestation and habitat loss in south America. Forest loss and conversion of soils also releases greenhouse gases and thus contributes to climate change. In the UK, peatlands, vital for wildlife, storing water and carbon, are still being stripped despite a government pledge to end peat sales by 2020. By being a ‘conscious consumer’ and avoiding those products and ingredients links to biodiversity decline you can contribute to positive change. More information on products and their links to biodiversity loss and other issues can be found on EthicalConsumer.

Species

A diverse range of species have been recorded in Camden. This includes common and resident species, like blackbirds, recorded over 1,300 times since 1976, to species that have only been recorded once or a few times, which may be rare in the Borough, or hard to find, or both.

Some of these species have declined nationally to such an extent that they are considered of principal importance for nature conservation in England. Over 60 of these national priorities have been recorded in Camden, including house sparrows (60% decline in 40 years), toads (68% decline in 30 years), hedgehogs (46% population decline), and stag beetles. Additional species have been identified not as national priorities but of conservation concern for London, and over a dozen of such have been recorded in Camden. These include bats like common pipistrelles and Daubenton’s bats and birds including dunnocks, peregrines, black redstarts and song thrushes.

While species are well monitored at a few sites, and a few species are surveyed at larger scales, our knowledge of how well many species are doing across Camden is lacking. Looking at the data we have shows a mixed picture, with some species records increasing and other decreasing. This just shows us how frequently a species is recorded, however, not how it is doing. Hedgehog records have increased hugely for example, but this is almost certainly due to increased survey effort in recent years. Some species have not been recorded at all in the last ten years, but it may be that no one has looked for them in the right place or with the right survey method. We are working with experts to try and fill in the gaps in our knowledge.

 

Outdoor learning 

Camden’s nature reserves and green spaces provide a rich environment for outdoor learning. Most of our nature reserves are open to the public at weekends. 

Schools and childcare settings can book sites for self-led activities. You will need to complete a risk assessment and provide evidence of your public liability insurance. You are also required to abide to Camden Schools Nature Reserves Code of Conduct when using a nature site. 

Outdoor Learning Booking Enquiry Form

Maps of childcare locations and nearby nature areas: 

The Ecological Emergency

On the 7th October 2019 Camden Council declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency.

Nature is in crisis. The abundance and diversity of nature experienced by previous generations are not shared by present generations, and our lives are poorer for it. 

In 2019, a global assessment of biodiversity and ecosystem services  estimated that a million species are at risk of extinction, many within decades, concluding that “…we are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life.” The fact that so many species are declining at such a rate – 100 to 1000 times the natural background rate – has led to the situation being described as the planet’s “sixth mass extinction” .

The UK’s own assessment of its biodiversity indicators  shows that we are still failing in many areas, with priority species, farmland and woodland birds, and pollinating insects continuing to decline.

In 2019 the UK’s conservation and research organisations presented an overview of how the country’s wildlife is faring in the State of Nature report, looking back over nearly 50 years of monitoring to see how nature has changed in the UK, with a focus on the trends in species. They found that, since the 1970s:

  • 41% of species have decreased in abundance (the number of individuals in a species’ population)
  • 15% of species are threatened with extinction
  • Causes of decline

Nationally, the primary causes of species decline are agricultural management, climate change, pollution, urbanisation, lack of woodland management, hydrological change, and invasive non-native species. Many of these are also global drivers of species loss, driven by international markets, including demand from the UK . At a more regional or local scale not all of these apply to the same extent, and many of the problems Camden’s wildlife faces – problems we need to face up to if we want to help wildlife – are those typical of an urbanised environment.

As part of the declaration of the Ecological Emergency, the council committed to “…produce a new ecological plan for Camden to sustain and improve biodiversity in Camden…” and to encourage “…all citizens, businesses, and organisations or groups in the borough of Camden to join with the Council to…protect and improve biodiversity, in order to avert impending catastrophe.

Camden Green Gym

Many of Camden's nature reserves, as well as biodiversity features in parks and green spaces, are maintained by the good will and ongoing support of volunteers.

The Conservation Volunteers lead twice-weekly conservation Green Gyms that work across the borough, and there are three independent Community Green Gyms that concentrate on particular sites.

Not only does volunteering with the Green Gyms help look after nature, it also keeps us active, improves our health and provides opportunities to learn about nature conservation and habitat creation and management.

Guidance, training and tools provided so no experience is necessary.

Learn more about Green Gyms in Camden