London, Mudchute Park and Farm, Mudchute Association

Mudchute Park and Farm is a rambling urban space just south of Canary Wharf on the Isle of Dogs. Today it is a nature reserve in the midst of London's densely populated borough of Tower Hamlets, but its name hints at a more troubled, less tranquil past.

The 12ha site was a dumping ground for overspill via conveyors and chutes when Millwall Dock was being built in the 1860s. During World War Two anti-aircraft guns loomed large to protect the docks from German bombing. Mudchute therefore has its origins anchored in various stages of history but it has always been at the heart of the local community.

Today Mudchute primarily exists to give the residents of the inner-London borough the chance to enjoy a natural open space. And that, according to farm and open space manager Nick Golson, is what they do, 365 days a year.

"The site is at the heart of the local community, and has been since the days when ack-ack guns protected the local docks," he explains. "Its facilities have provided locals with their first pony ride, their first glimpse of a grazing cow, their first pond dipping session and, in some cases, their first opportunity to climb a tree."

Management and staff keep the site accessible in all weathers with the facilities to support visits from schools and other community groups. Corporate visitors, including staff from the city's international banks, can often be seen getting down and dirty as they take part in corporate social responsibility initiatives including wildlife conservation work.

Staff are supported by an invaluable army of local volunteers and work-experience students, all of them helping to manage a popular local nature reserve that boasts a variety of habitats including a new wetland area.

Earlier this summer Mudchute Park and Farm hosted an al fresco banquet, where guests enjoyed champagne among the sheep to a balmy backdrop of blue sky and sun glinting off the towers of Canary Wharf.

Seasonal events and entertainment not only show off the site's flora and fauna but the strong and cohesive force of an urban landscape at bringing together a local community in good times and bad, war and peace, says Golson.

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