People Powered Places: the Beckton residents championing green spaces

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People Powered Places: the Beckton residents championing green spaces

Four inspiring projects, supported by Newham’s People Powered Places with additional funding from the Royal Docks Team, highlight what is possible when a community with a shared vision comes together to improve their local environment. 

We meet some of Beckton’s ‘green heroes’ - the residents who are champions and stewards of their local green spaces, actively shaping and improving these areas to ensure they are used, improved and preserved for the benefit of all. 

Itchycoo Pond is one of Beckton’s hidden gems and it is a fantastic example of collective action and grassroots placemaking. When you find the pond, which is nestled within a wooded corner of Beckton Park, it feels like you’ve discovered a secret garden, offering a peaceful retreat from the bustle of everyday life. Brightly coloured railings welcome you into a small but special space, encouraging you to sit and enjoy the surroundings. It does not take long to understand why this spot is so well-loved by the local community.   

However, this has not always been the case. Neglected for years, this secluded corner of the park became a hotspot for anti-social behaviour with more trolleys than ducks in the pond. Paths were inaccessible, overrun by weeds and litter, while the water (more swamp than pond), lacked any signs of wildlife. Until five years ago when a local couple, Brian and Pam, took matters into their own hands, clearing away the rubbish, reclaiming the paths and cleaning up the water. They nicknamed the area Itchycoo Pond - a nod to the 1960s hit by the Small Faces and a humorous reference to the itchy feeling one might get after spending time near the stagnant water. The name has stuck, affectionately adopted by both residents and council officers.     

Their efforts slowly reshaped this forgotten patch of land into a beautiful green space for the community to enjoy. Wildlife has returned to Itchycoo Pond. A scarecrow keeps watch over squirrels, ducks and terrapins but it is ‘Basil the fox’ who has captured the locals’ hearts - a regular visitor since he was a cub.   

While the couple’s initial efforts transformed this corner of Beckton Park, the People Powered Places programme, and Community Assemblies before that, has leveraged the extra resources and community action needed to take the project further. Previous funding enabled the construction of a viewing platform, making the area accessible to wheelchair users and prams. However, significant work is still needed to restore the pond’s biodiversity to its former glory - a habitat that previously supported bulrushes, willow, and irises, as well as frogs, dragonflies, and daphnia (a vital food source for aquatic animals).  

So this year, locals teamed up to secure two grants for Itchycoo Pond - one aimed at improving the quality of water and the other to address the condition of the surrounding soil.  

The Beckton Itchycoo Pond Ecology Group (BIPEG), led by Brian, are on a mission to dredge and cleanse the pond. Following professional guidance from a specialist ecology consultant, as well as support from local councillors and advice from Newham’s Parks team, the residents are slowly removing a top layer of muck, currently suffocating both plant and pond life. They will then add oxygenating plants to restore ecological balance.

Complimenting this work is the Itchycoo Park soil and plant upgrade project, led by local resident Jim, which is addressing the challenging soil conditions around the pond, limiting plant growth to largely hardy species. Currently, the soil is mostly compacted clay topped with a thin layer of poor-quality topsoil left from past developments. The People Powered Places grant is enabling the group to enhance the quality and depth of the soil, using recycled organic matter excavated from the pond. This will allow for the introduction of a wider variety of plants and flowers along the water's edge, as well as the expansion of wildflower areas.  

Jenny is another change-maker. A Beckton resident for over 39 years, she is actively engaged in the local community and passionate about her neighbourhood. Along with other likeminded residents she set up the Beckton Environment and Action Team (BEAT) to address littering and fly-tipping. Their People Powered Places project, Beckton Fit, Green & Clean, is rallying locals to address environmental issues such as fly tipping and littering. Their community clean-up days, workshops and engagement with local schools are raising awareness of environmental responsibility, leading the way for a cleaner, greener Beckton. Their commitment shines through every litter pick and community event, creating a culture of inclusivity and communal pride. Their last event attracted 49 people, collecting over 150 sacks of litter. They too are supporting the work at Itchycoo Pond, funding tools (including a motorised wheelbarrow!) and creating a communal hub through the delivery of gardening sessions, arts and crafts activities, and well-being walks, encouraging ongoing participation in the park’s upkeep and activities.  

Meanwhile the Woodland Explorers project, also based in Beckton Park, is providing outdoor learning opportunities for the local community, encouraging families to connect with nature. Their Forest School sessions provide children with the freedom to explore their woodland base, whilst learning about topics such as foraging, plant identification and natural crafts, all designed to instil an understanding and appreciation for the environment and nurture the next generation of environmental stewards.

These inspiring resident-led projects illustrate what can be achieved when people come together to champion their local environment, transforming parks and green spaces and creating opportunities for communities to connect with each other and with nature. With support from People Powered Places residents can test and expand their ideas to shape and improve their neighbourhoods – grassroots placemaking in action!


Get involved

Beckton Itchycoo Pond

Volunteers are needed to support pond dredging and re-landscaping. All protective equipment and tools provided, as well as refreshments! 

Contact: bipeg2@gmail.com, message 07900 319095 to join the volunteer WhatsApp group or connect on Facebook 

Beckton Fit, Green & Clean

Join the Beckton Environment Action Team for litter picks, community events and wellbeing walks.

  • Community litter picks

The next litter pick is taking place on Saturday, 29th June, meeting at 10:00am outside Beckton station. Contact: BEATBeckton@gmail.com

  • Community gardening sessions

Every Sunday from 2:30-4:30pm at Itchycoo Pond

Open to all, including families. The sessions include arts & crafts activities for children and refreshments are provided

  • Wellbeing Walks

Every Wednesday 11:30-1:30pm, leaving from Itchycoo Pond. 

A great way to meet new people, get fit and enjoy Beckton Park (includes a stop to feed the ducks!).   

Contact: BEATBeckton@gmail.com or connect on Facebook


Woodland Explorers

To find out more about weekly family activities in Beckton Park, email info@curiousbynature.co.uk or visit www.curiousbynaturelondon.co.uk