During half term my favourite outing was when we went along the river to the Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park. It was ‘Newt Week’ and lots of events were scheduled. This was what attracted us there, but the walk between the station and the centre was fascinating too.
Leaving North Greenwich station and as you first approach the river from the O2 (formerly the Millennium Dome), you get your first glimpse of the Emirates cable cars. These will be the first urban cable cars in the UK and will be opening to customers in the summer, to take them the 1km over the river from Greenwich Peninsula to Royal Docks (close to the ExCel centre). They are going at quite a pace at the moment, I’m hoping that’s just while they are in testing mode. They carry you over at a height of around 50 metres (160 ft). My daughter can’t wait to go on it; I can. Either way, it’s an exciting sight.
Keeping on walking, you have a fantastic view of the river, one way towards the cable cars and the O2 and the other towards the Thames Barrier. You also pass a really nice playground.
The Ecology Park itself was like an oasis which felt many miles from the city, although it’s just minutes from the Blackwall Tunnel and a few miles from Canary Wharf. In between slipping on the boardwalks in the rain storms, the children held newts by the shallow pools, played in the grass tents, discovered the bird hides and (when it got too wet) coloured in newt drawings. I enjoyed the posters on the wall of the hut showing names of ‘celebrity newts’, eg. Olivia ‘Newt’on John, Newt Gingrich etc. There were also trails, quizzes and word searches to do. The Park holds different seasonal events throughout the year including Frog Day, Tree Day, Dawn Chorus Day. There is even a bat tower, which is designed as a roosting place for native bat species such as the Pipistrelle.
I really recommend a visit to this little-known ecology centre. It’s fun and educational all in one go, and it might bring out a little twitcher or ecologist in you or any small person you take along with you. Go and enjoy the newts, birds, willow beds and pools. At the same time you will probably find, like us, that the route there and back will prove as interesting as the destination. Look carefully and you might also catch glimpses of London and the river past, present and future.
For more information on the Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park, go to the Urban Ecology website or follow on Twitter @greenwicheco.
Thanks to Nicoletta for the original tip on Newt Week.
Click into any of the thumbnails below to see the larger photographs