Escape to the National Parks in London!

Join me if you will and take a second to close your eyes and picture one of the UK’s national parks.

national_parksPerhaps your mind took you to the mountains and lakes of the Lake District, or to the dramatic landscapes of Dartmoor.

But, how about the city we live in?

When caught up in the bustle of the city such an idea may sound fanciful, if not preposterous, but, in fact, 47% of London is made up of green and open spaces, and, guerilla geographer, Daniel Raven-Ellison, has launched a campaign to have Greater London recognised as a National Park.

Daniels ideas and the concept of transforming the way we think about our city really do stand up to scrutiny when examined and he puts forward some strong arguments which seem to be gaining traction now. Raven-Ellison’s manifesto goes beyond the utopian dreaming often associated with ideas such as this to present six practical and positive benefits;

Children – Growing up in a National Park City would have a profound influence on our children. It would open up new opportunities for young people to be healthy, spend quality time with family, improve their outdoor education and grow up as creative citizens.

Health – Actively enjoying quality green space improves our mental health, physical health and well-being. It not only saves money on the health services, but can also improve productivity in the workplace.

Wealth – The Greater London National Park will put London on the map as the birthplace of a new National Park City movement. It will not only inspire new kinds of business in the capital, but actively work to promote opportunities for recreation and tourism in London’s outer boroughs.

Recreation – London is an incredible, inspirational and accessible landscape to explore. The Greater London National Park would promote the city’s long distance footpaths, 50 canoe clubs and numerous other often forgotten opportunities to enjoy open-air recreation.

Environment – The National Park will create a common vision for the city that all Londoners will understand. Activities will lead to better management of the capital’s green and blue infrastructure and as a result, increased resilience against pollution, flooding, climate change and other risks.

Nature – Londoners share a long history appreciating and protecting wildlife. The Park would both celebrate our achievements in conserving green space and inspire a generation to think creatively about our future relationship with nature.

What really grabbed my attention whilst reading through the website was how our gardens and shared spaces all contribute to this concept of an urban national park and help support the city’s surprisingly rich habitats. Here in Greenwich we are lucky enough to enjoy many of the natural pleasures to be found in London; from the borough’s parks, through the commons, the wildflower verges of the A2 to the Thames itself there are many places to find a breathing space, a play space, a place to observe the natural world going on alongside us.

And as The Wildlife Trust states on its website our personal or shared spaces are just as important to the overall health of the city;

Large or small, ledge or yard, your garden can be a mosaic in a wider network of natural havens linking urban green spaces with nature reserves and the countryside.

This is a subject close to the hearts of the artists collective, Avant-Gardening, whose aim is to combine creative activity with an appreciation and exploration of place. In the coming year we hope to be working in Greenwich, working with people to realise their ideas for improving their environment. In a time of rapid development we need to ensure that open spaces have their potential maximised and we can do this together through developing community gardens, sharing resources and skills, supporting native wildlife and speaking up to ensure planners and developers think outside of the ‘concrete box with a tree in it’ when they plan new communities and developments.

We hope that you will join us and help support Greenwich’s role in the development of the Greater London National Park. For more information about Avant-Gardening and to keep up to date with activities in Greewich please visit our website./

More information about the Greater London National Park can be found here and The London Wildlife Trust here.

About Paul Green

Paul Green curates and project manages Avant-Gardening. He was previously the Arts Development Officer at Lambeth Council before taking up the position of Outreach Co-ordinator at Hayward Gallery and has worked for Film London, Camden Arts Centre, Greenwich Film Festival and Camden Council amongst others

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