What a beautiful story!
The Mucking Landfill site in Essex, just north of London, one of the largest landfills in Europe, has been transformed into a gorgeous nature reserve.
Originally an old gravel pit, the area turned into a huge dump for London’s trash, which was brought up the River Thames by barge every day. Over a period of 50 years, thousands of tons of trash created a crust more than 80 feet deep. At that time, the only wildlife were the flocks of gulls who would dig through the trash looking for food and drag it out, spreading it all over the local area.
Now, in its third life, the site has become Thurrock Thameside Nature Park, described in their publicity thus:
A stunning and innovative visitor centre built on a former landfill site, with superb views over Mucking Flats SSSI and the Thames Estuary (SPA). Footpaths and cycle ways in 120 acres of nature park, which will expand to 845 acres. Great birdwatching – and ship watching.
Thanks to a £2.5 million restoration project, instead of thousands of gulls scavenging through the waste, rare wild flowers bloom, while endangered insects and reptiles have found shelter on the site.
What To Do With A Landfill?
When Mexico closed one of the world’s largest landfills in 2011, it decided to build a biogas plant to turn the methane produced by the waste in the dump into energy, as well as open a recycling plant to salvage some of the waste and find it a second life.
Some countries have other ideas: Advanced Plasma Power (APP) is a UK company that has formed a joint venture to dig up a giant landfill near Hasselt, in eastern Belgium, which has been in use since the 1960s. The plan is to extract 16.5 million tonnes of solid waste, recycle half of the rubbish, and convert the rest into energy.
New York City, by contrast, is going with the idea of installing solar panels on its closed and aging landfills as part of Bloomberg’s plan to reduce dependence on emissions-causing fossil fuels by 2030.
But I like this idea best. Transforming the landscape from how it has changed by becoming a landfill, back to how it used to be before the gravel pit, seems to me an excellent example of conservation.
A Visionary Project
The Park has seen several vulnerable species of bird making their home, including godwits (seen above), reed buntings, Cetti’s warblers, skylarks and barn owls. Wildlife experts have also observed harvest mice, brown hares, wasp spiders and great crested newts, as well as an extremely rare bumblebee, the shrill carder bee.
It was fitting that the great naturalist Sir David Attenborough, president emeritus of The Wildlife Trusts, officially opened the new wildlife park on Saturday, although it has actually been open for a year already.
From The Telegraph:
He said: A new chapter has begun for this historic landscape beside the Thames – one which will bring joy to people and dramatically improve the fortunes of wildlife in this part of the Thames Estuary.
“Essex Wildlife Trust’s project is visionary and one of many remarkable projects led by The Wildlife Trusts around the UK that bring benefits to the natural world and communities.
“It is fitting that it has begun a century after they founded nature conservation in the UK.”
Sir David said: “We live in a crowded country and need to respect its limits to sustain us. Change like this must become the norm.”
Creating beauty out of ugliness sounds great to me.
Photo Credit: thinkstock