Battersea Park is an 83-hectare (200-acre) green space on the south side of the Thames at Chelsea Reach, between Chelsea Bridge and Albert Bridge. It includes a large boating lake with islands and a 3-hectare (7-acre) local nature reserve consisting of woodland, scrub and meadow. Other features include a subtropical garden, a deer enclosure (still labelled as such, but no deer have been kept in the park for many years), a variety of sporting facilities and a children’s zoo. The park is owned by the London Borough of Wandsworth.
Address: Battersea Park, London SW11 4NJ (Map:; OS grid reference TQ280771)
Until the middle of the 19th century, the area now covered by the park was known as Battersea Fields. Separated from the Thames by a narrow raised causeway, the fields consisted of low but fertile marshes intersected by streams and ditches. Crops such as carrots, melons, asparagus and lavender were grown for the London markets. Running along the riverside were small industrial concerns including a pottery, copper works, lime kiln and chemical works, served by wharfs on the river.
In 1845, an application was made to Parliament for a Bill to form a Royal Park of 320 acres. The Act was passed in 1846 and £200,000 was promised for the purchase of the land. The Commission for Improving the Metropolis acquired 320 acres, of which 198 acres went on to become Battersea Park, which was opened in 1858. In the same year, the new Chelsea Bridge was opened, giving easy access to the park from north of the river.
From the start, the park was used for sporting activities, and in 1864 it hosted the first football game played under the rules of the recently formed Football Association. The park was home to Wanderers FC, winners of the first-ever FA Cup in 1872.
In 1951 the park was transformed into the “Pleasure Gardens” as part of the Festival of Britain celebrations. New features included a water-garden with fountains and a funfair, which eventually closed in 1974. In 1993, three hectares of wilder habitat on the east side of the park were incorporated into a local nature reserve. In 2002 the park closed for an £11m refurbishment programme, funded in part by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It reopened in 2004.
For birders, the more interesting parts of the site are the lake, the nature reserve and the river frontage. The lake has an irregular shape and features a number of large wooded islands. The main section of the LNR is The Wilderness, a linear plantation alongside Queenstown Road, which consists of woodland with four glades and a pond. Nearby is The Meadow, a circular belt of mixed woodland and scrub surrounding a managed meadow area.
In recent years the meadow was cleared removing nearly all the brambles and along the north side most of the trees cut down, rendering it less attractive to birds and more suitable for people to sit in the sun. Also general policy round the park has been to remove dead trees, including one in which a pair of parakeets had a nest! (This paragraph added by Michael Mac 1st August 2017)
Elsewhere in the park are tree-lined paths and areas of open grassland, although much of the open space is used for sporting activities. In total the park has more than 4,000 trees, including many dating back to the original layout of 1858.
List of birds I’ve seen from 2008 to 2017, though my visits were mainly just round the main lake watching nests for BTO NRS Scheme not searching all the nooks and crannies for rare migrants though in last couple of years spent more time looking for migrant passerines. Worth noting that at Brockwell Park which has more heath type habitats than Battersea Park I saw a Whinchat and Common Redstart a few weeks apart (in 2015) and have seen neither species at Battersea Park so far:
Mute swan, Greylag goose, Canada goose, Egyptian goose, Mandarin, Eurasian Wigeon, Gadwall, Eurasian Teal, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Northern Shovelor, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, Tufted duck, Ruddy duck, Little Grebe, Great-crested Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Red Kite, Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard, Osprey, Kestrel, Hobby, Peregrine Falcon, Moorhen, Coot, Woodcock, Common Sandpiper, Common Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser-black Backed Gull, Herring Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Great-black Backed Gull, Common Tern, Feral Pigeon, Stock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Ring-necked Parakeet, Common Swift, Kingfisher, Nuthatch, Green Woodpecker, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Swallow, House Martin, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Reed Warbler, Blackcap, Common Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Goldcrest, Firecrest, Spotted Flycatcher, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Jay, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Starling, Chaffinch, Brambling, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet.
According to London Bird Report 2005: 8 Berwick’s Swans on November 5th and 3 Shelduck on March 13th both species had landed on the lake. Makes total species to 81. ALL THESE SPECIES WERE SEEN IN OR OVER THE PARK NOT ON THE RIVER.
Mute Swan: breeding resident but only 1 pair.
Grey lag Goose: used to breed but less frequently seen in recent years.
Canada Goose: bred in 2017 but before this not seen as much or in great numbers.
Egyptian Goose: bred for first time in 2011 though not since this could be due to lack of hollow trees which is nest site of choice, possibly only time they bred was on the ground. Up to 6 birds seen all year round.
Mandarin Duck: 2017 is first year I’ve seen a pair here though they only stayed for a few weeks and didn’t breed.
Eurasian Wigeon: single bird seen in winter in last 2 years though infrequent visitor.
Gadwall: several pairs used to breed but since 2010 breeding is very rare though some birds present all year round. It was the only place in Inner London where Gadwall bred which should afford the park some special support to find out why the Gadwall stopped breeding – could this be due to foxes raiding the nests? I have seen foxes on the islands.
Eurasian Teal: a few birds are sometimes seen in winter but not present in the summer.
Mallard: common resident but amount of broods appear to have decreased, only 2 this year when in the past there have been over 6 successful broods per year, again could this be due to foxes?
Northern Pintail: very rare I’ve only seen one male in summer of 2010
Northern Shovelor: common winter visitor have counted over 70 but in last few years numbers decreased
Red-crested Pochard: successfully bred for the first time in 2011 but not since and has not established permanent residence – sporadic visits throughout the year though I’ve not seen one yet in 2017
Common Pochard: has bred in the past but only handful of birds seen annually
Tufted Duck: variable population all year round, has bred but not in last few years
Ruddy Duck: only seen once in summer of 2008
Little Grebe: resident, possibly 2 pairs
Great-crested Grebe: resident, only 1 pair but there have been 2 pairs but one failed. This year (2017) only single bird present so not bred
Cormorant: winter roost that has peaked at over 200 birds a few years ago
Little Egret: very rare visitor – only seen twice in last 3 years both times in July
Grey Heron: there were over 32 active nests back in 2010 I think in last few years this has declined by about 6 pairs, some long established nests on the largest island have gone in the last 5 years. I counted nests in March and there were 26, but a few birds seem to have built nests after the leaves are on trees so it’s possible nests have been built but not seen due to growth of foilage after I counted in March.
Red Kite: can occasionally be seen flying over the park, one low on 22 April 2017
Sparrowhawk: can be seen throughout the year and has bred
Common Buzzard: again can occasionally be seen flying over the park one low over lake in 2015
Osprey: one seen on 12th April 2008 (16:30) straight through low over the lake at tree height then over the Thames
Kestrel: sightings are decreasing in last 5 years
Hobby: seen once in 2014
Peregrine Falcon: can be seen over the park and the area as breeds annually at Battersea Power Station
Moorhen: common resident usually up to 4-5 pairs make nests.
Coot: common resident usually about 25 pairs make nests.
Woodcock: one seen during heavy snow round Christmas 2010.
Common Sandpiper: a pair on the boats one day in May 2010
Common Snipe: one zig-zagging over in response to low flying helicopter autumn 2017
Black-headed Gull: common late summer to winter visitor
Common Gull: a few visit in winter
Lesser-black backed Gull: a few in summer after young birds, but mainly winter visitor
Herring Gull: a few in summer but mainly winter visitor
Yellow-legged Gull: seen once in winter 2010
Great-black Backed Gull: seen once in 2015 circling the park mobbed by about 30 crows, but mainly seen on the Thames
Common Tern: one used to fish in the summer for a few years this was several years ago not seen in the last few years
Feral Pigeon: up to 200 often seen around the park and several pairs breed in gap under the toilet roof
Stock Dove: 1 or 2 pairs breed
Ring-necked Parakeet: resident
Common Swift: a small number occasionally feed over the lake in summer, larger numbers may be seen on migration doesn’t breed locally
Kingfisher: infrequent visitor – I’ve only seen them in 4 years since 2008 for 1 or 2 days they don’t stay long as there is no where for them to breed
Green Woodpecker: 1 or 2 can be seen or heard mainly in spring and autumn but they don’t breed
Great-spotted Woodpecker: has bred usually seen or heard a few times a year
Swallow: a few seen in Spring and Autumn passing through
House Martin: a few usually seen in Autumn
Grey Wagtail: often seen round the lake but don’t breed
Pied Wagtail: sometimes seen on sports pitches but less so than Grey Wagtail
Song Thrush: resident
Redwing: often seen in colder winters with snow
Mistle Thrush: resident
Reed Warbler: I’ve only heard one singing in 2014 no breeding
Blackcap: breeds up to 5 pairs
Common Chifchaff: has bred usually present in spring and autumn
Willow Warbler: can often be heard singing in spring on migration
Goldcrest: 1 or 2 pairs breed
Firecrest: 1 seen in autumn 2016
Spotted Flycatcher: 1 seen autumn 2013
Long-tailed Tit: resident mainly nesting in gorse bushes
Blue Tit: resident
Great Tit: resident
Coal Tit: mainly autumn winter visitor
Jay: possibly one pair breed but mainly seen in autumn
Magpie: resident, winter roost of 30+
Carrion Crow: resident about 4-5 pairs breed every year, flock of up to 100 present all year round
Starling: small flock on sports fields in autumn and winter but doesn’t breed as no suitable sites. Winter roost at Battersea Bridge near by of around 1,000 – 2,000 birds. This species could benefit from nest boxes being put up round the park on buildings and trees
House Sparrow: I’ve not seen one sparrow in the park though a few still breed near Battersea Power Station and over the river in Pimlico. I heard that the last place sparrows frequented was the children’s zoo back in the 90’s. Perhaps they have gone because there are no suitable nest sites anymore? Also if feeders were put up somewhere in the park sparrows may start coming in again.
Chaffinch: a few birds not sure of breeding?
Greenfinch: a few birds not sure of breeding?
Goldfinch: mainly seen in autumn but more often seen in residential areas nearby
Linnet: 3 seen in autumn 2012
Total: 81 species
If anyone has records of other species seen in Battersea Park then please ad to list and provide your name and date and when seen if rare.
So total species I have seen here is 79 from 2008 to 2017 - there are not enough habitats to bring in rarer migrants on a regular basis and the park authorities seem to be reducing the variety by cutting down dead trees (the dead tree in which I saw the only Spotted Flycatcher I've seen here) and destroying the meadow (removing natural nest and food sources such as brambles and thistles) area in comparison with Regent's Park were people like Tony Duckett have created habitats to attract more birds - providing at least 2 feeding areas which seem to be areas were migrant birds are often found. Shame that Battersea Park can't do the same. Michael Mac August 2017.
☀Historic records for this park include Marsh Tit, Turtle Dove, Barn and Little Owl, Bullfinch and breeding Rook and Swallow mostly seen by Mr D. W. Musselwhite in the 1920's
The Friends website mentions squirrels, foxes, bats, hedgehogs(?), rats, mice, terrapins and frogs.
English Nature says that The Wilderness and The Meadow support 20 species of butterfly, including the rare White-letter Hairstreak. Stag Beetles and Lesser Stag Beetles can frequently be seen in May(?). Other notable invertebrates include the Flower Bug (Anthocoris minkii), the Lily Beetle (Lilioceris lilii) and a nationally notable hoverfly, Volucella zonaria.
The Park is a short distance from Battersea Park and Queenstown Road mainline stations. From the former, exit to the right along Battersea Park Road, walk 50m to traffic lights and turn right into Queenstown Road; the park is on the left after 150m. From the latter, exit to the right along Queenstown Road and the park is on the left after 300m.
The nearest London Underground station is Sloane Square, from which there is a 1km walk south via Sloane Street and Chelsea Bridge Road or alternatively, take a 137 or 452 bus. Other bus routes passing by or near the park include 19, 44 (from Victoria station), 49, 156, 239, 319, 344 and 345. Visitors looking for somewhere to stay during their visit will find that the Sloane Square hotels are amongst the closest. These are typically 4 or 5 star properties but you'll be able to find some more affordable options further you away from the station.
If arriving by car, be aware that you will have to pay to park. Parking in the surrounding streets is almost exclusively permit-holder-only or pay-and-display. Several pay-and-display car parks can be found inside the park. At the time of writing (2011), the parking fee on weekdays is £1.80 per hour for up to four hours and £20 for longer stays. On Saturday and Sunday the fee is £2 for up to two hours and £4 for longer visits. Disabled badge holders park free for up to three hours, with no limit at weekends. Overnight parking is forbidden.
The park has free public access. It officially opens at 8am but the gates are often open earlier. It officially closes at dusk, but some gates are left open later to allow users of some sports venues to play a bit later.
Public toilets can be found at several sites within the park. A number of shelters allow you to hide from the weather. Food and drink can be obtained at a number of places in and around the park. La Gondola al Parco, by the park lake, serves Italian food, coffee and ice creams, and you can sit outside watching the waterfowl. The Tea Terrace Kiosk, hidden between the fountains and the children’s zoo, serves drinks, sandwiches and other snacks. A number of ice cream vans are usually situated around the park during the summer.
Within easy reach outside the park are numerous cafés, pubs and restaurants, particularly on Battersea Park Road.