The ‘National Park’ on the doorstep of Londoners
A blog by Madeleine Roberts, MA Landscape Architecture
Inspired by a seminar given by artist and environmental activist Judy Ling Wong, MA student Madeleine Roberts shares her thoughts on London becoming the world’s first National Park City, and why this is particularly important during lockdown.
"The UK is truly fortunate to be home to a total of 15 stunningly diverse National Parks. A day out at just one of them can leave you feeling windswept, revived and reconnected to nature. Yet right now, up and down the country, we are being told to stay away, and instead stay home.
But there is one ‘National Park’ whose greenery and wildlife is being appreciated more now than ever before. London. Yes (you’re not going mad), London, home to almost 10 million people, with skylines smothered with skyscrapers and swathes of pollution, is in fact a National Park. Or more accurately a National Park City.
After years of campaigning for this accolade – a world first – in July of 2019, London’s 13, 000 species of wildlife, 3000 parks and 30, 000 allotments were finally recognised for the value they provide. Value to conservation, people and the economy.
It was the relentlessly optimistic Judy Ling Wong, artist and environmental activist, who brought this to the attention of Sheffield Landscape students, during a truly moving seminar last October. In her words, ‘we love what we enjoy and we protect what we love’.
As the majority of the country grinds to a halt, many of us must instead appreciate what we have in front of us. We have one outing a day to escape the confinement of our homes. And this freedom is providing more time to fall back in love with what we enjoy and take notice of the nature on our doorstep.
Sceptics have argued this accolade is none other than a gimmick, however, as Ling Wong pointed out, this new nomenclature draws attention to the fact that 47% of London is green space, as well as it being home to the world’s largest urban forest.
More than this, a national park city is about creating a movement of community based interventions which inspire change through conversations. Pre-isolation, conversations were created through rewilding patches of pavements or festivals celebrating the outdoors. Now though, because of COVID, community groups have formed at an unprecedented rate. The conversation may not be in person and they may not be focused on how we can better green our streets, but at least now we know the kindness of our neighbours.
Perhaps when the lockdown is lifted we will have fallen back in love with the natural world around us enough to start to protect it fully. Until then, there’s a community to support (from a distance of course)."