The current warm temperatures mean that now is a great time to escape to London’s cool, shaded and much-loved outdoor spaces, parks and rivers. It’s also the start of the school holidays which means there’s no better time for Londoners of all ages to take advantage of the 300 events taking place across the capital for the first London National Park City Week (21 – 29 July).
This week, we’re working closely with the National Park City Foundation, to support the wide range of events that give everyone the opportunity to get out more and explore the city’s hidden green gems. Organised by community groups, charities, boroughs and businesses, the range of events demonstrate the wide breadth of support to ‘green the grey’ and improve and maintain our green spaces to help make London the world’s first National Park City.
And why is it so important? We know that getting out into green spaces is really good for your physical and mental health. Living in a big city doesn’t mean we should accept a dirty and polluted environment and all of the health risks that come with it. The Mayor wants to use the National Park City initiative to retain London’s status as one of the greenest cities in the world and ensure everyone has access to green spaces, clean air and waterways.
I started the week at a ‘Smell and Touch Safari’ in Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park in Southwark with the Museum of Walking, where I got to experience wildlife and nature in a unique and creative way, through the senses. I joined local children in bark rubbing and smelling herbs. I am constantly surprised by London’s green spaces - the walk even took us through an orchard just behind the Imperial War Museum, in zone 1. There is still plenty of time to join in the fun throughout the week.
My favourite park has always been Ruskin Park in Lambeth because of the many things you can do there – from taking a gentle walk, to checking out the wildlife ponds, or dipping your toes in the paddling pool. But I also enjoy London’s unexplored green spaces, like the Core Landscapes community nursery, an unexpected oasis of flowers and food growing in a former car park next to the Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel, or the tranquil Woodberry Wetlands in East London where the Mayor and I launched the draft London Environment Strategy last Summer.
I’m also really excited about the new swimming lake we’re funding at Beckenham Place Park. Not enough Londoners know about it, even though it’s south-east London’s largest publicly accessible park. The new lake – due to open next summer - will provide open water swimming, a home for wildlife and a venue for kayaking sessions. I encourage everyone to visit it.
Later this year we’re working with partners to co-ordinate a weekend of large-scale National Park City tree-planting events across London in the autumn, as well as helping Londoners run their own community events, and giving away free tree packs. The weekend will enable volunteers to join planting events with hundreds of others in London’s green spaces. We’d love to hear from you if you’d like to get involved.
All of these activities will help the Mayor fulfil his ambition for London to be confirmed as the world’s first ever National Park City in 2019.
We can all take simple actions to help make London greener and I hope as many people as possible are able to enjoy this week’s events. why not get out and try something new this week?