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Temporary morgue at Wanstead Flats to be replaced by wildflower habitat

PUBLISHED: 17:00 07 August 2020 | UPDATED: 17:22 07 August 2020

The site has been cleared and soil is being prepared for sowing. Picture: City of London Corporation

The site has been cleared and soil is being prepared for sowing. Picture: City of London Corporation

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A temporary mortuary built on a beauty spot at the height of the coronavirus pandemic has been removed and will give way to a new wildflower habitat.

Graeme Doshi-Smith is chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Epping Forest and Commons Committee. Picture: City of London CorporationGraeme Doshi-Smith is chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Epping Forest and Commons Committee. Picture: City of London Corporation

Since it opened in April, the facility at Wanstead Flats, one of six temporary mortuaries set up across London, has accommodated the bodies of people who died from the virus.

But as the Covid-19 death rate has fallen and stabilised, it has now been dismantled and the City of London Corporation, which owns the land, has begun the process of returning it to nature.

Graeme Doshi-Smith, chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Epping Forest and Commons Committee, said: “While coronavirus is likely to still be with us for a long time and we mustn’t be complacent, the removal of the mortuary is a welcome sign of the green shoots of normal life beginning to return to our open spaces.

The four-acre site, forming the southernmost boundary of Epping Forest, will be reseeded with native species, temporarily fenced off to protect the young plants and is expected to reopen to the public next summer.

The land will be home to a mix of native wildflowers and grasses. Pictured here are bird's foot trefoil and red clover. Picture: City of London Corporation/Dr Jeremy DagleyThe land will be home to a mix of native wildflowers and grasses. Pictured here are bird's foot trefoil and red clover. Picture: City of London Corporation/Dr Jeremy Dagley

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The City Corporation protects and conserves 11,000 acres of green space in London and south east England – including Epping Forest and Hampstead Heath - and more than 200 smaller sites in the Square Mile.

Mr Doshi-Smith said: “In the weeks to come, our teams will be preparing the soil before sowing the land with a wildflower seed mix, including seeds collected from nearby areas of the forest.

“When it has grown, the grassland will provide a rich habitat for visitors and wildlife to enjoy, and will mark out a lasting, natural reminder of those who lost their lives to coronavirus.”

Sheep's sorrel is another of the wildflowers due to be sewn. Picture: City of London Corporation/Drr Jeremy DagleySheep's sorrel is another of the wildflowers due to be sewn. Picture: City of London Corporation/Drr Jeremy Dagley

Wanstead Flats is one of London’s most important grasslands on gravel soils, a rare wildlife habitat supporting special flowers, butterflies, moths and bees.

After being prepared for seeding, the earth will be sown in the autumn and again in spring next year. The site will remain fenced until summer 2021 to allow the wildflowers and grasses to grow.

Sheep’s sorrel, ox-eye daisy, common knapweed and heather, as well as grasses including fescues, bents and rare heath grass and mat-grass are among the plants set to be seeded.

The City Corporation funds its green spaces with more than £29million a year. They include important wildlife habitats, sites of special scientific interest and national nature reserves.


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