7 years ago when I lived in North London, I used to travel past a building site at the rear of King’s Cross station every day. I always wondered what it was going to turn out be – but expected that it would simply turn into another area full of high rise flats and office blocks. I moved out of the area before it was ever completed.
Today, this piece of land has been transformed into a pretty quirky area, with trendy bars, cafes, restaurants and lovely outdoor spaces where you can splash around in the Granary Square fountains, or relax with a book by the canal (book lovers, check out Word on the Water – London’s floating bookshop, which was saved from closure last year after 6,000 people signed a petition to find the shop a permanent mooring on the canal). Nature lovers can also visit the wonderful Camley Street Nature Park – a surprising wilderness in between St Pancras and Regents Canal, which is home to a range of birds, butterflies, bats and other wildlife. Although the park has been open since 1984, it has recently been expanded.
A great way to explore this area, at the same time as learning something new and contributing to the area’s conservation activity, is by taking part in the Kings Cross Bee Trail. Bees are hugely important to our eco-system – they pollinate two-thirds of the food we eat and also pollinate the fruits, nuts and seeds that are eaten by small mammals and birds. Therefore, bees are absolutely essential in maintaining the biodiversity of our world. However, bee numbers are declining. Estimates indicate that recent winters saw bee losses of up to 53%. We need to help our fuzzy little friends.
The Bee Trail, launched by The Honey Club (a social enterprise established by the charity Global Generation, Wolff Olins and Urban Bees), encourages people to become “bee aware”. The app-guided tour guides bee spotters through the area via 8 different bee stops. At each stop, identified by wooden numbered hexagons, you can see the efforts that Global Generation have made to improve the biodiversity of the area – mainly through the planting of wild bee-attracting flowers, and learn about bees, their habitats and what you can do to help the bee population in the city and at home.
At some of the stops, you can take part in a citizen science project, where Bee Trailers are asked to count the number of individual bees they see at a certain spot in 30 seconds. The data submitted via the app is used to assist with conservation efforts. Some stops also unlock vouchers for nearby restaurants and cafes, so you can help science and grab yourself a bargain on the way!
I won’t spoil the surprise for each of the stops, but I have to mention that the trail ends at the unique Skip Garden – a sustainable urban community garden, where nearly everything is built from recycled materials from the King’s Cross construction site. Skips have been used to create amazing vegetable and herb gardens, reclaimed timber has been used to created raised beds and unused tubing and wood has been used to create a handmade beehive. All of the food grown on the site is used in the Skip Garden Kitchen, where you can grab delicious home grown meals including open sandwiches, tarts and soups, as well as tea, coffee, cakes and healthy juices. I had to try their trio of sandwiches, and treated myself to a brownie with a free cup of tea thanks to the Bee Trail app.
The Skip Garden is a community garden in every sense of the word. The project is also run by Global Generation, a charity which aims to give young people the opportunity to help in creating a sustainable future. Youths from the local area have worked alongside construction and office workers to help them develop the skill, contacts and confidence they need for future employment. Volunteers are also welcome on Wednesday evenings, where they work alongside experienced gardeners and are rewarded with a hearty home-cooked meal. Spaces are limited, so if you are interested make sure you book a place!
The Bee Trail took about an hour to complete, but on a gorgeous sunny day you can make it last much longer. Therefore, it is a great activity to do with the kids – you can even do it before getting a train from King’s Cross, St Pancras or Euston.
What was once a building site full of cranes and rubble, has now been transformed into a haven for nature in the city. The area around King’s Cross is quickly becoming one of my favourite areas of London, and the Bee Trail helped me to explore it in a fun and educational way, while also doing my bit to support local conservation efforts and a local social enterprise.
If you are in London, download the Bee Trail app and go on a bee hunt. Not only will you learn about bees in the city, you will also discover one of the new cool areas of the capital!
BEE QUICK – the app is only available until September 4th 2016!
Download the Bee Trail app for iOS or Android from The Bee Trail website, all the information you need is on there when you start it up.
Highly recommend staying on at the vegetarian Skip Garden Kitchen for a post-walk bite to eat – opening times are Tues-Sat: 10:00 – 16:00.