Cody Dock – a thriving community on the River Lea

Cody Dock signage at entrance to site

Cody Dock is a community charity sandwiched between a stretch of the tidal River Lea and an industrial estate, located in a part of London that had (until fairly recently) been largely forgotten and yet is home to an unusually high level of biodiversity. 

With what has been described as the ‘Olympic effect’, this area is now rapidly transforming from a series of post-industrial open-mosaic habitats to high-density riverside accommodation. 

The Cody Dock environment team (Evie Crouch, Education Officer and Gino Brignoli, Biodiversity Officer) work with local volunteers and schools in Newham and Tower Hamlets to record, preserve and enhance urban biodiversity and green spaces nearby. 

Being aware of the potential impacts from this urban renewal, we have created an active programme of environmental volunteering opportunities. We have limited time to document what’s here given the rate of development. We are also working with the developers to ensure that existing communities and residents of the 55,000 new homes in our immediate vicinity, will have access to biodiverse green and blue spaces.    Cody Dock Survey

Through community-level scientific monitoring we have created over 3,000 biological records, documenting over 250 species of birds, mammals, plants and invertebrates within the locality of Cody Dock and the River Lea. This is a fraction of the biodiversity present here and represents the most recognisable and iconic groups of wildlife. 

The River Lea has historically been regarded as one of the most polluted rivers in Europe, and since 2019 we have used basic indicators to monitor the quality of water in the river and in the dock. A common local problem is the tidal range of the river which brings in litter from downstream, increasing the number and location of sources of litter. 

Litter in the river builds up in vegetated areas and also breaks down into micro-plastics which enter the food chain. In the surrounding area there are fly-tip hotspots which damage the woodland habitats, degrading the value of these sites and potentially creating the argument for removing these spaces altogether. We run regular clean ups in both these habitats.

Our volunteers are also involved in the restoration of existing and creation of new habitats in and around Cody Dock. We work to:Cody Dock River clean

  • Increase native tree coverage
  • Improve the river’s biological and physical habitat
  • Improve water quality
  • Introduce species-rich wildflower habitats
  • Increase habitat availability
  • Support the reduction of the urban heat island effect
  • Replace locally lost open mosaic habitats
  • Improve species diversity and community matrix

We were delighted to be featured in the Saving Our Wild Isles film on BBC iPlayer which celebrates some of the work that we’ve been doing with local schools and communities. We’re looking for more people who share our enthusiasm for urban wildlife and recognise the importance of green and blue infrastructure to help us to continue our work to record, conserve and enhance the species and habitats of these areas. 

If you have some time spare we would love for you to be involved with our project. Watch the film, check out our website, email us, or drop in to visit us if this sounds interesting to you.

Written by Gino Brignoli, Biodiversity Officer @ Cody Dock

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