Sir David Attenborough opens landfill site transformed into nature reserve

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Media captionSir David Attenborough: "There is a whole range of wild creatures"

A huge landfill site in Essex, transformed into a 120-acre nature reserve, has been officially opened by Sir David Attenborough.

The Thurrock Thameside Nature Park at Mucking, which lies on top of 50 years of waste from six London boroughs, has been restored to grasslands, woodland, ponds and reedbeds.

Essex Wildlife Trust has turned it into a haven for bees, birds and reptiles.

It is one of the Trust's largest restoration projects.

The scheme will eventually expand to cover 845 acres, about twice the size of London's Regent's Park, sitting on a "pie-crust" up to 30 metres deep which covers the landfill site.

'Living landscape'

The site on the north bank of the Thames Estuary, which has been occupied since Stone Age times, is flanked by a creek and overlooks coastal marshes which are home to thousands of wading birds, especially in autumn and winter.

Essex Wildlife Trust has leased the surface land with the aim of restoring the site so it benefits wildlife and local people and boosts the local economy.

The new nature park has attracted rare and threatened species including the skylark, adders, the shrill carder bee and water voles, and forms part of the wider "living landscape" of woodlands and grasslands supporting wildlife along the Thames.

A visitor centre has been built on top of the former landfill, with hydraulic jacks installed to cope with settlement of the rubbish below the building, and the park provides a network of paths, bridleways and cycle routes.

Sir David, president emeritus of the Wildlife Trusts, said: "This is the beginning of a new chapter in the history of this part of the Thames Estuary.

"The area has had its ups and downs. This wonderful nature area and the extraordinary new centre stand where there were once 230 Saxon dwellings - but in between times the waste of six London boroughs has been brought here."

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