'Beautiful' meadow blossoms at Wanstead Flats a year after Covid-19 mortuary removed


A wildflower meadow has blossomed at the site of a temporary mortuary on Wanstead Flats. - Credit: Yvette Woodhouse

A "beautiful" meadow of wildflowers has blossomed on the site of a temporary Covid-19 mortuary removed a year ago today.

Erected at Wanstead Flats at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the temporary mortuary was removed on August 5, 2020, to make way for the wildflower habitat.

Graeme Doshi-Smith, chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Epping Forest and commons committee, said: "It’s beautiful and moving to see what has blossomed in this space one year on.

"It has been transformed from a mortuary and returned to [Epping] Forest as a grassland in even better condition with more wildflowers than before.

"The grassland is a rich habitat for visitors and wildlife to enjoy."

A fence, which was put up to allow the flowers to get established, has been removed with this stretch of Epping Forest open again.

Sown last summer, the wildflower meadow helps return the grassland to its natural state and provides extra wildflowers for pollinators, including bees and moths.

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The grass is due to be cut for hay in late summer and in future years it is believed the hay-cuts will help maintain species variety.

Flowers planted include cornflowers, yellow goat’s beard, German chamomile, cow vetch, meadow pea, corn marigold, common selfheal and oxeye daisies.

A temporary mortuary for coronavirus victims is being built at Wanstead Flats. Picture: Yui Mok/PA

The temporary mortuary for coronavirus victims was built at Wanstead Flats. - Credit: PA/Yui Mok

The mortuary opened last April and was one of six temporary facilities in London.

It held the bodies of people who died from the virus before their burial and was removed as the UK moved out of the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The four-acre site, which forms the southernmost boundary of Epping Forest, was reseeded with native species and temporarily fenced off to protect the young plants.

Wanstead Flats is recognised as one of the capital's most important dry grasslands on gravel soils.

It is hailed as a rare, wildlife habitat supporting special flowers, butterflies, moths and bees.

The City Corporation protects 11,000 acres of green space in the capital, including West Ham Park, Hampstead Heath and Burnham Beeches.