Until the 18th century, Bingley was not an island, but part of the larger Bingley Meadow, but the digging of a new, straight channel that cut out a large loop in the river Stour left Bingley marooned, while the more northerly part of the meadow was destined to become Tannery Field. There may have been cattle grazing here as recently as the early 20th century, but now the 1.7 hectares (four acres) are managed as a nature reserve by the owner, Canterbury City Council, in conjunction with the Friends of Westgate Parks.
The island lies on the flood plain of the river Stour, and in wet winters can be partly or completely under water for days on end. This has given it much of its wildlife interest, with many willows and alders, damselflies and frogs.
An old pond, now very overgrown and hard to spot, attracted reed bunting and reed warbler to nest here until quite recently. A smaller one was dug out in 2014, and is a picture in summer when ringed by flowering purple loosestrife. If you’re lucky, you could spot a marsh frog here; this is an alien species, originally introduced to Romney Marsh in 1935, but now widely established in south east England. Typically a brighter green than our native frog, it is also distinctive for its pattern of large, dark spots.
Prior to 2018 much of the island was wooded or scrubby, but under a new management plan much of the scrub has been mulched and converted into rank herbaceous vegetation, with a proliferation of tall plants such as thistles and willowherb. In late summer the thistle seeds attract feeding flocks of goldfinches. Other management includes mowing some areas of grass several times a year to create informal recreation areas that provide a circular pathway. In winter these open areas prove attractive to a small flock of moorhens that feed on the short vegetation.
250 species of beetles and 56 types of flowering plants have been identified on this small patch of land. All in all, it is remarkable that such a diverse area should have survived barely a hundred yards from the busy Rheims Way.