Since 2004 Mile End Park has adopted the slogan, “Bringing the countryside to the East End” This resulted in a change of horticultural management that sought and continues to seek to provide a wide range of habitats within the park. Each year established habitats are managed and new habitats developed. The park is now widely regarded as an exemplar of how to integrate wildlife habitats into a heavily-used urban park. It value was recognised in 2013 when it was designated a Site of Metropolitan Importance for nature conservation, the highest grade of non-statutory wildlife sites in London.
Probably the most significant habitats are the wild flower meadows that can be seen throughout the park. Most of there were sown in 2004 and are consequently very well established. Due to the variety of soil conditions throughout the park, different species have come to dominate different meadows, providing a wide variety of habitats for invertebrates. Large numbers of butterflies, bees and grasshoppers can be seen during the summer. Regular surveys of spiders and beetles have been undertaken since 2004. The species totals currently stand at 163 spiders and over 150 beetles, including several nationally rare species. Remarkably, two spiders new to Britain have been found in the park – the jumping spider Macaroeris nidicolens in 2002 and the buzzing spider Anyphaena sabina in September 2011. Rare beetles include the Streaked Bombardier Beetle (Brachinus sclopeta), known only from a handful of sites in Britain, and the rove beetle Amarachara forticornis, which is only known in UK from a shingle beach on the south coast, a green roof in dockland and now Mile End Park. Several other Nationally Notable species of beetle and spider have been recorded.
The meadows are cut in autumn, leaving 20% uncut to act as over wintering sites for invertebrates. A one metre strip is cut adjacent to all hard surfaces that abut the wild meadows, to show that the meadow management is deliberate, and not simply neglect. A grass footpath is cut through each of the meadows to enhance public access and appreciation of these areas. Invasive plant species within the meadow areas, such as Cleavers, Creeping Thistle and docks, are controlled as necessary, usually by physical rather than chemical means.
Water bodies, in the form of three ponds and the canal that bounds the park provide a significant habitat within the park. The ponds contain a mixture of reeds and other native aquatic plants, and support plenty of animals. A few pairs of Coots and Moorhens nest in the reeds, large numbers of Common Toads spawn in the ecology ponds, and a good variety of aquatic invertebrates can be found.
There are numerous small areas of woodland and copse around the park. Some of these are coppiced on a regular cycle to encourage young growth allow light into the woodland, promoting wild flowers and woodland butterflies. Where possible, areas of woodland are underplanted with native shrubs to provide an understorey, though this is not possible in areas where antisocial behaviour is frequent. Woodland wild flowers and bulbs have been introduced in many of the wooded areas. Wood piles and standing dead wood can be found around the park, benefiting invertebrates and fungi.
Several mixed native hedgerows have been planted around the edges of the park, and additional hedges are planted most years. An orchard is due to be planted in the Children’s Park in autumn 2015.
With the ongoing commitment to biodiversity it can be truthfully said that Mile End Park will continue to bring the Countryside to the East End throughout the 2010s and beyond.