Nature Reserves of London- 2nd Edition

When I first started watching wildlife in the capital nearly three years ago, I wondered which nature reserves I should visit, and thought there might be a map of them. It turns out there was, but only of those run by certain organisations. As my knowledge of the capital grew, I had the idea of creating the first complete map of nature reserves, a map which would help Londoners explore the capital’s often overlooked wild side, and help them explore designated and community-run sites near them. After about a year of using data from DEFRA, I eventually compiled a map of these sites, using an application called Google My Maps, and called it ‘Nature Reserves of London- 1st Edition’. This was up on my blog for about six months, but I thought the map was missing something. I soon discovered there was another very common type of site called a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC), and these were designated by borough councils (these are the orange points on the map) and GiGL, the organisation which keeps record of these sites, informed me about some other designations such as Ramsar, Special Area of Conservation and National Nature Reserve. For the next eighteen months or so, I spent whatever time I could plotting over 1000 of these points, and recently, I’ve finally finished Nature Reserves of London- 2nd Edition. I hope the map will encourage Londoners and tourists alike to discover and enjoy a wild space local to them, and embrace the enormous area of woodlands, wetlands and parkland London had to offer.

The map in its construction, displayed at London Recorders' Day, Natural History Museum, November 2018

Nature Reserves of London- a new way of exploring the capital (February 2019)

The map with the London National Park City Aster, and green borough boundaries to celebrate London's new designation as the world's first National Park City (July 2019)

The map with three walking routes, RIGS/LIGS sites and the newly-designated South London Downs NNR (September 2019)

The map was launched in February 2019 on this website. Over the said year, the map had gained some popularity, with mentions of it in the Big Issue, London Evening Standard, among other publications (some can be found in the bibliography to the right). This surprised me a lot, and a significant moment in its development was at the declaration of the London National Park City in July 2019. From then on, the primary aims of the map have been:

To encourage Londoners to explore the wealth of wildlife sites, green and blue spaces on their doorstep

To educate people about the different types of habitat and wildlife designations found in the capital

To inform Londoners and visitors alike how they can make a difference on their doorstep

Currently, I am visiting as many sites as possible, discovering the Wild Side of London for myself! Along the way I've found many surprising places, all with fascinating wildlife and amazing people helping to preserve them. On the map, it is only through feedback that I've managed to create three walking routes, adding general information to different sites and creating a code of conduct. However, as of January 2020, I have ceased most future developments: this is because an overwhelming majority of feedback is to turn the map into an app, which is what I intend to do! I won't reveal its name or the features for now, so watch this space!

The map is still up on the website, so here is a comprehensive guide to all the sites:

A guide to the sites:

NOTE: Yes, it's called 'Nature Reserves of London', but that's only because I decided to stick to the map's original name, instead of going for 'Wildlife Sites of London'. Only the sites which have 'nature reserve' in their name are nature reserves, e.g. LNR, NNR, Wildlife Trusts and Other Reserve. So in fact, the majority of the sites on the map are not actually nature reserves, but designated sites. 

SINC (Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, orange): these are sites designated by borough council, with benefits for people and wildlife.

LNR (Local Nature Reserve, turquoise): sites designated by the Government, with benefits to the local community.

NNR (National Nature Reserve, khaki green): a nature reserve of national importance, with a variety of habitats.

Other Reserve (red): a nature reserve managed by a local organisation or community-run. A lot of sites in this category are also SINCs.

LWT/HMWT/EWT/KWT (black): a nature reserve managed and owned by the London, Hertfordshire and Middlesex, Essex, or Kent Wildlife Trust respectively.

SSSI (Site of Specific Scientific Interest, purple): an area of particularly unusual geological structure or habitat, of interest to scientists.

RIGS/LIGS (Regionally Important Geological Site/Locally Important Geological Site, light/dark grey): the geological versions of SINCs, these are also designated by borough councils as areas with significant geological structures and landforms.

Ramsar (blue): sites designated by the Ramsar Convention, as a wetland habitat of international importance.

SPA (Special Protection Area): a site designated by the EU, with the aim of protecting resident and migratory birds.

Special Area of Conservation (SAC): also designated by the EU, these are sites which aim to promote conservation throughout Europe.

Green Aster: to celebrate the declaration of the London National Park City.

Borough Boundaries: the green lines that are shown around the map are the borough boundaries, which form the official outer edge of Greater London.


  1. Wow! Just viewed it for the first time. Read about it in the Walk Magazine published by the ramblers association of Great Britain. Well done! Keep up
    the good work.Wildlife is wonderful and fascinating.

  2. Hi Kabir, congratulations on winning your BTO Marsh award last night - brilliant stuff. Great also to see this map, it helps bring to life the results of some of the work I and many others undertook in the 1980s and '90s on first identifying London's 'wildlife sites' and getting them awarded a level of protection from being developed.

    However, I'm sure you're aware that their future protection is not necessarily guaranteed, which is why we - London Wildlife Trust - published Spaces Wild in 2015, aimed at planners and campaigners to raise their visibility:

    We continue to aim to influence London's planning framework to ensure that these best of the city's ecological assets are properly protected and positively managed, and work to create new ones, so that London gets an even better place for nature to thrive.

    Again, congratulations on your Award and for being a great and inspiring advocate for London's nature. I hope at some time we may be able to meet.


    Mathew Frith
    Director of Conservation, London Wildlife Trust

  3. This is great (and congrats on the award!), but instead of a closed database, using Google Maps, you could do this on an open platform, Wikidata (a sister project of Wikipedia) collaboratively with others, and cross-link entries to other linked, open data (like biographical data on the people who founded the reserves, or have reserves named after them); eBird and iNaturalist lists of sightings; and photographs. Wikidata has entries on reserves & conservation sites not just in London, or even the whole UK, but the whole world.

    Here's a small sample (SSSIs):

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