An overwhelming number of Londoners (94%) agree politicians should protect London's green, blue and wild open spaces; ensure all are of high quality, attract diverse users and feel safe for all.

The result is taken from a YouGov1 survey commissioned by London National Park City2. Its results3 are being shared with all candidates standing to be the next Mayor of London and all London Councils, ahead of the local elections in May.

YouGov’s survey records the expectations and desires of Londoners, with 88%  agreeing politicians should promote the London National Park City to make their city greener, healthier and wilder.

84% of respondents agree politicians should create a London National Park City strategy linking transport, health, education and the environment.

87% want  politicians to use London’s National Park City status and identity to inspire more people to get outdoors to enjoy London’s open spaces. Increasing London’s green, blue, public and wild open spaces and improving the quality, safety and diversity of existing spaces is important to 89% of participants.

London National Park City founder, Daniel Raven-Ellison, said:

“London’s green and blue spaces proved themselves every day of the pandemic. The post-pandemic Mayor must ensure the capital’s green and blue spaces are central to everyone’s health.”

It was widely reported during the Covid-19 outbreak that those with easy access to green space were less susceptible to the virus, leading to renewed demand for more green spaces, especially in deprived areas.

London National Park City is one of the many organisations supporting A More Natural Capital4 campaign, with a shared agenda for change published in December 2020. TV Presenter Julia Bradbury will host an online Mayoral

Environmental debate based on the agenda on 12 April. The YouGov survey findings underline public expectations that our politicians will work with communities to put nature at the centre of recovery plans.

Notes:

1. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1051 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 30th March - 1st April 2021.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all London adults (aged 18+). YouGov is registered with the Information Commissioner and is a member of the British Polling Council.

2. The National Park City Foundation is the registered charity (no. 1173267) behind London becoming the world’s first National Park City in July 2019.

Launched with the support of thousands of Londoners inspired by the world’s rural national parks, London National Park City is a growing movement of people making life better in the capital, and in other cities across the UK and around the world. Individual actions make urban spaces greener, healthier and wilder. LNPC has five commitments we’re asking Mayoral candidates to sign-up to: https://www.nationalparkcity.london/ideas

3. The More Natural Capital Manifesto has been created by a group of leading environmental organisations outlining ambitious programmes of action needed in London to reduce pollution and waste, improve health and wellbeing, secure nature’s recovery and tackle climate change. The partnership aims to persuade all the candidates to adopt our agenda over the coming months, including by participating in a Mayoral Environment Debate on Monday 12 April.

Survey results:

  • 89% of respondents support the London National Park City aim of creating more high-quality green and blue space (e.g. parks, lakes, etc.) in London (e.g. enhance the management of London's existing green and blue spaces for people, promote more integrations of green and blue habitats into new and existing business and residential developments, etc).
  • 91% of respondents support the London National Park City aim of connecting more people to nature and the outdoors (e.g. promote improvements to health and wellbeing, increase volunteering and engagement of people in their own natural environment, provide education about London's nature and environment, etc).
  • 87% of respondents support the London National Park City aim of promoting the identity of London as the world's first National Park City (e.g. help residents and visitors appreciate the potential for London's outdoor heritage and natural assets, increase public understanding and pride in London's National Park City status, use London's example to support other cities in their move to National Park City status, etc).
  • 84% of respondents support the London National Park City belief that politicians should create a London National Park City strategy involving all parts of the greater London authority (e.g. transport, education, health, etc.) to help achieve the aims of the movement.
  • 87% of respondents support the London National Park City belief that politicians should promote London's National Park City identity to inspire more people to enjoy London's great outdoors.
  • 88% of respondents support the London National Park City belief that politicians should promote London's National Park City to help make London greener, healthier and wilder.
  • 75% of respondents support the London National Park City belief that politicians should support seasonal city-wide National Park City gatherings to help connect Londoners.
  • 94% of respondents support the London National Park City belief that politicians should protect London's green, blue, public and wild open spaces and ensure all are of high quality, attract diverse users and feel safe for all.
  • 89% of respondents support the London National Park City belief that politicians should increase London's green, blue, public and wild open spaces and improve the quality, safety and diversity of existing spaces.

 

Schools’ have broken, or are about to, for Easter and some of the Covid rules have eased enough to allow groups of six or two households to gather outdoors and for organised team sports to resume outdoors. Full details on the lockdown changes can be found on the Government’s webpages.

London still has a wealth of opportunities to enjoy and most of them are free, especially if it is one of the four thousand or more parks or public green spaces listed on the GoParks website. The listings include links to the London Garden’s Trust historic database or to the wildlife records office for London detailing what plants, bugs or other natural attractions you can discover.

England remains under lockdown, so you must stay at home, leaving only where permitted by law. You can be fined £200 minimum if do not follow the coronavirus rules. The two metre physical distancing rules remain in place so try to respect others personal space, especially where it gets crowded along narrow paths, bridges entrances or outside take-aways and other venues.

You can leave your home to exercise or to visit a public outdoor place for outdoor recreation, such as a coffee on a bench or a picnic in a park. You should minimise the time you spend outside your home, and you should not travel outside your local area, and must follow the guidance on how to stop the spread of coronavirus at all times.

Park activities c Victoria Stewart

Walking, sitting, cycling, playing football or running. Time to get more active together outdoors (c) Victoria Stewart

 

If you are planning to meet five friends or another household, there is one essential website you should remember. Lockdownloo.com is the most up to date service listing toilets not closed by the pandemic. Take water to keep hydrated and do not forget your mask, hand sanitiser and to let someone know where you are going and when you will be back.

One of the new lockdown changes is that outdoor sports facilities and team sports like football and tennis can resume. Check facilities are open before setting out as many still have restrictions. London’s outdoor swimming pools and wild swimming venues are re-opening; most with booked entry and one way swimming in force. Heated pools include Covent Garden’s Oasis pool, London Fields lido in Hackney, Hampton Pool and the lido’s at Park Road in Crouch End and Hornfair Park’s Charlton lido.

There are several unheated options too. These include Brockwell and Hillingdon lidos, and pools at Tooting Bec, Parliament Hill, Pools on the Park in Richmond and of course the Serpentine and Hampstead Heath ponds (nine degrees Centigrade on Monday 29th).

Several parks and nature reserves have set-up Easter nature trails where you can enjoy a stroll under trees full of blossom and catkins, or displays of daffodils, crocuses and other spring blooms which are starting to appear. Wildlife is emerging from its winter slumber rather like us staggering from our lockdown homes for some exercise or to clear our minds. Look out for frog and toad spawn. The first will appear like clumps of transparent rice pudding while toad spawn will be in strings. There may even be some tadpoles to enjoy. Migratory sand martins have started to return to nest in London from their winter break in Africa. Swallows and swifts will follow.

Art lovers could enjoy works by Anish Kapoor, Abigail Fallis and Anthony Gormley along London’s first dedicated art walk, The Line sculpture Trail. It takes you through some of London’s most historic areas and some of the newest. The route runs between Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and The O2, following the waterways through Three Mills Island (home of the MasterChef studios) and the line of the Greenwich Meridian. You can explore The Line virtually online too!

Thomas J Prices bronze silicon statue called Reaching Out depicting isolation and connectedness c Tim Webb

Thomas J Price's bronze silicon statue called Reaching Out depicting isolation and connectedness (c) Tim Webb

 

London National Park City’s new Wiki pages offer several top ten walks or attractions and lots more from street art and wildlife to the best places for kite flying or star gazing during International Dark Sky Week (Sunday, April 19 Sunday, April 26). Lots to see, discover and do by yourself, in a group of six or with one other household.

There are thousands of public paths and walking or cycling routes through and around London. Some are signposted like the London Loop, while others like canal pathways are obvious. They can become narrow and busy so may not be the most attractive option at busy times. Always respect others.

London has more than a hundred city farms and community gardens slowly re-opening with a variety of attractions from chickens and goats to donkeys and sheep. Many have take-away drinks and snacks available too and most will be in desperate need of income having been closed for so long.

Feed your mind, meet your ancestors and get fit with a walk in one of the capital’s magnificent seven garden cemeteries established by the Victorians. Kensal Green is the oldest. The other six are West Norwood, Highgate, Abney Park, Brompton, Nunhead and Tower Hamlets. All are a fascinating mix of monuments to the famous and the unknown who built London and shaped society, plus fine  architecture, sculptures and nature.

If you want to immerse yourself in nature or try a bit of forest  bathing, Epping Forest is our largest woodland but there are others around London, and many have a few cycle routes, walking routes and picnic areas. Make sure you do not leave any litter.

While we are celebrating spring and all things outdoors, please remember, we are not out of the pandemic woods yet! England is still under lockdown. Only going out for essential activities or exercise. The GoParks interactive map can be searched by borough or postcode to find parks and green spaces near you. Covid remains a major threat we must all beat, even if school pupils are on holiday and restless. When you do go out, stay local, stay distanced and stay well.

 

At the end of February 2020 I became a mother to a beautiful baby boy. It was truly a magical experience as well as one of the most challenging jobs I had done to date; I was responsible for keeping a little person alive.  I found myself surviving on little sleep as well as riding the wave of a myriad of emotions. A few weeks into motherhood the UK entered its first lockdown and overnight my support network diminished along with the closure of a number of services.  I was overwhelmed with thoughts and just like everyone else I had to navigate this new world with my new born.

As the shutters of the world we once knew came down I found myself drawn to daily walk into the woods and parks where I was encapsulated by the wonders of the natural world, which helped bring calm, presence and hope in what seemed a chaotic and socially distant world.

By stepping into nature I enjoyed the beautiful fresh air, which rejuvenated me and made me feel anew. Often we can get stuck in our mind with the same thoughts on a continual loop with no clarity of thought or perspective. I found walking in nature gave me perspective, fresh ideas and often the realisation that it is not worth sweating the small stuff as things have a way of working themselves out. I mean look at the natural world everything orchestrates beautifully irrespective of the apparent chaos around us.

Sandeep and son

As all the baby classes were closed I looked to nature as the great educator. The diversity of species, plant life, season, colour, texture, I mean the list just goes on. I had volumes of information to show my son but I only saw this when I stopped, looked and became present. By stepping into nature and stepping away from social media I was able to appreciate the different sounds, smells and sights that I often paid little attention too.

My walk refreshed me mentally as well physically; I was amazed at the number of calories I burned on a walk to the local park. The most wonderful element were the smiles and hellos I encountered from people who longed for some form of social connection in a world where we were locked away from our nearest and dearest.  There appeared to be a mutual appreciation of the beauty that surrounded us and as result people seemed happier and more connected.

 London has a huge array of beautiful green spaces rich in biodiversity, which needs to be protected. London being a National Park City means that there is a community of people working together to look after and improve green spaces so that future generations can enjoy it but we too can play our part and make London greener, wilder and healthier in our unique way in our local area whether that be starting a buggy fit  or a walking group.

As the seasons changed, the seeds blossomed into flowers and caterpillars transformed into beautiful butterflies I learned that change is an inevitable feature of life. Yes the life we once knew seems a distant memory but as nature shows we are probably on the cusp of a new way maybe even better way of living and working.

The Covid-19 lockdowns we endured (and are enduring) made us all rediscover the importance of having high quality green space on our doorsteps. For those of us who are lucky enough to live in one of the UK’s National Parks or Areas of Outstanding National Beauty, going for our daily walks surrounded by restorative nature and beautiful vistas was food for the soul. But for the majority of us who live in towns and cities, the countryside can feel like it is out of reach or not for us. We want to overcome that.

A year ago today (21st September), the UK government published an independent review of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty by Julian Glover, Associate Editor of the London Evening Standard. His review made 27 proposals including a call for a new focus to stop the decline of nature in these protected landscapes, and to welcome more working class and black, Asian and minority ethnic visitors. One of his proposals stood out to us:

‘Welcoming new landscape approaches in cities and the coast, and a city park competition’

The review praised the creation of the London National Park City in July 2019, highlighting how our urbanised lives aren’t served as well as they might be by the current static system of protected landscapes. And the National Park City movement is anything but static! For example, since the publication of the landscapes review we have:

  • Recruited over 50 National Park City Rangers - enthusiastic and talented volunteers who want to make their bit of London greener, healthier and wilder for all the residents of their Boroughs. Glover recommended that all National Landscapes should have Rangers and should encourage more volunteering, well we’re clearly on it
  • Launched the Prize to Transform the Future of the London city region with Ordnance Survey, Culture Declares and a range of the National Landscapes in the south east of England. Glover recommended just such partnerships between cities and the protected landscapes that surround them
  • Announced our intention to create a 100-person People’s Assembly, representing the diversity of London to advise and guide on activities to improve life in London by making it greener, healthier and wilder. Glover recommended that National Landscapes should establish partnership groups made up of people who represent the interest of those areas.

 

maker paper 2x1

 

Our ambition for London is limitless, but we don’t want to keep all the good stuff just for Londoners. That’s why we have partnered with World Urban Parks and Salzburg Global Seminar to set our ambitions for spreading the National Park City movement around the world. There is enthusiasm bubbling up in places as far afield as Adelaide, Seoul and Sacramento, and as close to home as Newcastle, Glasgow, Swansea and Belfast, among other UK cities. We want to welcome more cities into the National Park City family, growing the movement around the world, improving life in cities for millions more people.

That’s why we are inviting people from cities on every continent to join us in celebrating Urban October - the UN’s global conversation about the future of our cities. With our partners we are hosting a series of events on the theme of Better City, Better Life:

  • On 29th October, our 100 International Voices event will shine a spotlight on the inspiring stories of people working in cities around the world to make life better
  • On 30th October we will be launching our guide for people in cities who want to join the global family of National Park Cities
  • Throughout the month there will be opportunities for emerging leaders to nurture their skills and connections as they develop campaigns and actions in their emerging National Park Cities.

With enough support from enough people in cities all around the world, there is no reason why all urban citizens shouldn’t have the privilege of connecting with nature on their doorsteps, along their streets and in every neighbourhood. Join us in our Urban October events to help make this a reality. Every city can be a National Park City.

 

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