Cody Dock and the Cody Wilds project are part of the Gasworks Dock Partnership, which is regenerating the former gas works in East London next to the River Lea.

In the London borough of Newham, Cody Dock is about a mile, as the crow flies, from the River Thames meaning the River Lea, up to and beyond the dock, is tidal and attracts an array of wildlife including the occasional seal.

The River Lea with Canary Wharf in the background.

In an otherwise heavily industrialised area, Cody Wilds is an initiative to restore habitat and re-wild the area around the dock and along the river pathway up to Bow Locks.

Leading the project is Ben Bishop, Citizen Science and Environmental Manager, who describes the objective as “strengthening the existing wildlife habitats and ensuring that this wildlife continues to flourish alongside the emerging regeneration that is set to line the river over the coming years.”

The area around the dock and along the river pathway is an ecological corridor and with so much development taking place it’s vital that this corridor is retained and enhanced.

I joined Ben and three volunteers on a day in August when they were surveying the area for invertebrates.

L_R: Ben, Chloe. Emily and Khadijah

Khadijah is studying for her A’ levels, which includes a module on sustainability. Emily works in the music industry and Chloe is a supply teacher. They are united in their desire to gain a better understanding of the environment; and after months in lockdown each of them was glad to be outside for the day.

Guided by Ben and armed with reference sheets, books and an app, the group set about scanning the vegetation for butterflies, wasps, bees, flies, grasshoppers and ladybirds.

A relatively short stretch of river path took the group over two hours to survey comprehensively, resulting in at least one new species (a butterfly) and data that affirms that the effort to restore the habitat is attracting biodiversity.

Cody Wilds is transforming a former heavy industrial site and returning it to nature, which is increasing biodiversity and creating an important wildlife corridor along the River Lea. With the help of volunteers, other charities, and the support of local businesses, Ben and his colleagues are creating a haven for wildlife in the midst of a sprawling city. Years from now people will be thankful that they did.