Are you involved in your local greenspace?
By Rachel Dobson
At GoParks London we know being outdoors and spending time in nature boosts our physical and mental wellbeing and we fight to ensure vital urban green spaces are kept accessible to city dwellers.
GoParks London is part of London’s countryside charity, CPRE London. It has over 4,000 registered parks and green spaces in the capital - all mapped out on our website to help people access and enjoy nature in their local area. We support and fund the creation of Friends Groups to adopt and nurture local parks and to work alongside councils and landowners to protect them for community use.
Urban greenspaces are constantly under threat from property developers and professional sports clubs but we have identified ample brownfield spaces for more than 350,000 new homes in the capital.
Being part of one of our Friends Group is a great way to develop skills which can lead to work in the environmental space, not least because of the important interaction with local councils. Members of Friends Group are often the connection between the community and the council, reflecting the desires of locals and approaching the council, or landowner, for permissions. Likewise, councils rely on the Friends Group as their “ear to the ground” in local communities. Often they participate in Borough Forums where both parties can come together to discuss local parks and green spaces.
Laura Collins, LFGN Network Development Officer – GoParksLondon, says: “Having a role on a Friends Group is really valuable for personal and professional development and gives a useful perspective when going for any paid roles in the sector. People see their soft skills grow as they find themselves working with lots of different people in the community - often people they would not usually interact with. As a volunteer, you’re sometimes a point of contact for both people in the community and for Green Spaces Managers and Community Group Liaison Officers at councils.
“A lot of the work of a Friends Group is around promoting and advertising the work that’s being carried out and explaining the important role of a Friends Group to locals, and how people can be involved. This can develop social media and traditional communications skills.
“There’s also a big scope to be part of the committee where there’s the different experience of being a treasurer or a chairperson, for example. Alongside that, people develop practical skills around maintaining green spaces, planting trees and shrubs, and understanding issues around litter. By being a member, friends develop knowledge around they local biodiversity.”
Ideally, in places such as Wandsworth, South London, the Friends Groups and councils work collaboratively on their local green spaces. Friends of Wandsworth Common launched in 2018 and has over 700 members. They work to engage the community in the protection, conservation and enhancement of Wandsworth Common and work closely with the Management Advisory Committee which advises the council. Along with organised walks and talk about local biodiversity and heritage, the Friends also have a regular litter pick, duck and swan feed bagging sessions and volunteering sessions.
Laura says: “GoParks work with councils to promote volunteering and exploring green spaces and supports the creation of new Friends Groups. We also hold events to highlight the fantastic green spaces on officer in a borough.”
If you’re a Londoner or a council Parks Officer, and want to get involved or know about a local green space which hasn’t been listed, please contact us. We can add it to our brilliant interactive map and start to help form a Friends Group around it - protecting it for local residents to enjoy.
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