They want to build a theme park here? Swanscombe peninsula, Britain’s newest protected place | Winter walks

As I set out for the Swanscombe peninsula from Greenhithe station, on the south lender of the Thames in close proximity to Dartford in Kent, on a uninteresting winter day, I explain to myself to be reasonable. I’m heading for Britain’s most recent web site of specific scientific desire (SSSI) but it is not likely to be a wildflower meadow or an ancient woodland. This is a previous industrial website situated on a component of the river extended affiliated with the concealed, the overlooked and the thrown-absent.

But some thing magical happens. Pursuing signs for the England Coastline Route, I fall by way of a wormhole in time and find myself in an unexpectedly attractive waterside village of flint cottages, outdated ship chandlers and cosy pubs. Right here, in Greenhithe’s large road, is a slice of the aged Thames. The air heavy is with woodsmoke and the only seem is of waves slapping from the banks. Out on the river, near to the place where Sir John Franklin and his crew set sail on their unwell-fated quest to find the Northwest Passage by means of the Arctic, a flock of redshank are probing the mud as a tug guides a container ship out to sea.

Time period structures on Greenhithe high street. Photograph: Chris Lawrence/Alamy

I come to feel my move sluggish, my intellect relieve as I stick to the river by way of the after-rolling parkland of Ingress Abbey, now blighted by the pile-up of architectural variations that helps make up most waterside developments. On the far bank I can see the industrial sprawl of West Thurrock. Kent has fared little better than Essex when it arrives to inadequate organizing decisions but below and there pockets of land have escaped. The Swanscombe peninsula, a mile or two east of Greenhithe, is a person such put. A previous cement will work, abandoned in the 1990s, this landscape has been left in superb, unfettered abandonment for a long time, allowing nature to reclaim it.

each-coloured bearded tit
Sophisticated, peach-colored bearded tits have built Swanscombe their home. Photograph: Alamy

The peninsula now includes 259 hectares (640 acres) of wetland, woodland, lakes and, of course, flower-wealthy meadows. As I climb on to the sea wall, I see a significant reed mattress stretching away, its edges backlit by silver birches, those most revolutionary of trees. They dust the web site with spangles of gold. Deep inside of this swamp land I hear the ping-ping-ping of bearded tits, stylish and generally concealed, peach-colored birds with drooping black moustaches. I’m astonished. How could this place have remained susceptible and unprotected for so long?

Regrettably, so generally we are unsuccessful to see the value in locations right up until they are threatened. Irrespective of its designation as a shielded landscape, the Swanscombe peninsula is earmarked to be turned into a topic park by London Resort Organization Holdings, a project thought of by the federal government to be “nationally important infrastructure” thereby skipping what tiny preparing protection is remaining in the hands of neighborhood councils. In order to help you save this wetland, conservation bodies which include Buglife, the RSPB and Kent Wildlife Believe in stepped in, and Pure England declared it an SSSI simply because of its importance for a quantity of scarce bugs, vegetation and birds. But even with this level of defense, the builders hope to get the environmentally friendly light for their options, saying that the funfair will strengthen the economy of the space and that the fragile habitats can be recreated in other places.

I follow the coastal route around the shoreline. There is no escaping the point that this landscape is not promptly desirable. A 190-metre pylon strings wires high across the Thames, and derelict structures crumble beneath ivy. Having said that, it is on our former industrial web-sites that character shows us what rewilding really suggests. Birch and bramble clamber throughout piles of rubble orchids bloom along with the trackways. In the spring, bumblebees lookup for nectar amid the coltsfoot. It is not only nature that gains from such sites. There is peace in this article, as scarce as hens’ teeth on the fringes of the town, and I can photo what a superb position this could be to connect young children in a mostly deprived region with nature.

Even with the business, there is something prehistoric about this land. It resembles the locations our ancestors would have hunted. Fifty percent a mile absent is the Swanscombe skull web page, in which some of the earliest-known human stays in Britain have been learned, those people of a female who lived 400,000 yrs ago. Definitely, she would have foraged alongside these shores and gathered ducks’ eggs in a wetland not so diverse from this.

Thames shore at Swanscombe
This extend of Thames shore is earmarked for a Disney-design resort. Photograph: PA Illustrations or photos/Alamy

The coast path emerges on to a creek. Listed here a community of houseboat proprietors are performing absent to patch and restore their crafts. Thames barges lie docked for the winter season and stonechats bob among the piles of timber and outdated railway carriages. These edgeland communities are inhabited by individuals who would like to stay unfettered, as well, and undoubtedly are as vulnerable to eviction as the wildlife.

As dusk falls, I comply with the route back again to the river. The lights from the QEII bridge pool out throughout the drinking water. The drivers hurrying overhead almost certainly have minor information of the relevance of the oasis tucked away down in this article. Article-industrial internet sites are not normally quick to really like, but the more you look, the a lot more they reward you. I can only hope that the defense this place has been offered is ample to prevent its decline.