Parklife: a hint of the countryside

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By Neil Sinden

Newcomers to CPRE might be surprised to know that we have a group in the capital – not a place you’d necessarily associate with our countryside. But its many parks and open spaces provide green oases and opportunities for contact with nature, as Neil Sinden, director of CPRE London, explains.

Despite what might seem from the outside to be endless buildings, London is a relatively green city. In fact, almost half of Greater London is green and its parks and green spaces are the vital lungs of the city.

They provide opportunities for Londoners to feel a little connection with the countryside: to breathe fresh(er) air, connect with nature and take time out from the hustle and bustle of city life. That is why CPRE London has recently been focusing on the capital’s parks: drawing attention to the pleasures they provide, the communities that care for them and bring them to life – and the pressure on these green spaces.

'Almost half of Greater London is green and its parks and green spaces are the vital lungs of the city.'

Alongside this, we have been promoting the improvement of parks for the benefit of people and nature. And we are keen to see the creation of new ones in areas where existing green space has become neglected and threatened by development.

Enjoying the greenery and waterways of the Olympic Park in east London | Neil Sinden

Promoting green spaces with GoParksLondon

As part of our GoParksLondon initiative we have mapped 4,000 of London’s publicly accessible green and blue spaces on Londoners’ doorsteps that are just waiting to be explored.

GoParksLondon is a campaign to promote London’s green spaces and the park friends’ groups who give their time to protect, enhance and promote the city’s parks and their surrounding communities. These dedicated groups celebrate their local park’s heritage and culture, help local authorities look after the site, fundraise for improvements, run events and activities or campaign for their protection.

'GoParksLondon is a campaign to promote London’s green spaces and the park friends’ groups who give their time to protect, enhance and promote the city’s parks and their surrounding communities.'

On the GoParksLondon website, parks have their own dedicated pages with photos, facilities information, insightful nature information, historical gems from the London Gardens Trust and sign-up links to become part of the friends’ groups. Nearly 250 of these detailed pages have been created, and new friends’ groups register with the site every day.

Recent campaigning by CPRE London and its partners has brought GoParksLondon to the attention of borough councillors and the public. A hive of media activity has spread the joys of discovering a new park and joining the local friends’ groups, and an upcoming seminar series seeks to promote cooperation and communication between councillors and friends’ groups to help achieve common goals around health, social cohesion, biodiversity, and the environment.

GoParksLondon has also launched the ‘Discover the Parks’ walking and cycling routes to encourage people to explore their borough’s parks on a fun day out. The team has worked with active travel communities to devise and promote the routes and have been launched in Newham, Merton, Enfield, with Camden and Islington recently added. The routes can be found on the borough pages on the GoParksLondon website, where you can keep your eyes peeled for future routes in Brent, Bromley, Tower Hamlets and Sutton.

Admiring the open green space of Greenwich Park | Fas Khan / Unsplash

Turning forgotten sites into new parks

We think GoParksLondon is an integral step towards spreading awareness of London’s many natural gems within many of the city’s thriving communities and creating a city with #GreenSpace4All. But London has just half the green space it needs for a population its size. CPRE London’s Ten New Parks campaign works with local communities to turn forgotten, undervalued sites into new parks.

'London has just half the green space it needs for a population its size.'

These local campaigning groups are giving a voice to forgotten open spaces that are sitting idle or are at risk from development. The River Roding Trust is campaigning to transform post-industrial, derelict wetlands into a new riverside park, The Edgelands, that will connect Epping Forest with the River Thames. The Brent River & Canal Society is urging the council to grant Warren Farm nature reserve status. And the Friends of Quaggy Playing Fields are developing a campaign to keep the Quaggy River Playing Fields safe from developers, ensuring that these fields continue to serve surrounding communities as a space for recreation and relaxation.

The inspiring stories of these spaces are galvanising national support for the natural and cultural heritage of our capital – and I hope they might provide inspiration for park lovers elsewhere in the country.

Get involved

Are you in London and feel frustrated at seeing a green space near you neglected, derelict or simply not used? Please contact alice@cprelondon.org.uk to see if it could become one of our Ten New Parks. And if you’re in an urban area, dreaming of the countryside, do check out what your local park has to offer.

This week is Keep Britain Tidy’s Love Parks week. Do see their website for more reasons to love your park.

Escaping the hustle and bustle of city life in Brockwell Park Marieke Wrigley

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The legacy of Ethel’s vision and determination lives on thanks to the continued efforts of the Friends of the Peak District, and she remains an inspiration to everyone within CPRE