We now live in a national park. As of yesterday, London has joined the ranks of Dartmoor and the Lake District by becoming the first National Park City. The way in which London’s national park is organised is not the same as the governance of rolling moorlands and craggy mountains, but the idea behind it, of protecting nature and nurturing wildlife habitats, is. Like the established parks, the ethos of National Park City is to persuade those of us who live in it to take joint responsibility for the care of our environment.
Daniel Raven-Ellison, who describes himself as a ‘guerrilla geographer and creative explorer’, started the campaign to make London a national park six years ago, and is seeing his ambition realised with the launch this week, supported by of the Mayor of London, grassroots activists, big businesses and local councils. The National Park City Foundation is a charity, it doesn’t have offices or paid staff; everyone involved is a volunteer and the idea is to act as an umbrella group to promote active outdoor pursuits and engagement with nature.
The National City Park Festival, on all this week, 20 – 28 July, pulls together a list of events which are loosely outdoors and healthy, from pond dipping and bat walks to Military Fit training sessions in Richmond Park. There are over 300 free events across the capital. Rather than reinventing the wheel, the National Park City Foundation is publicising existing events and programmes all being run by a myriad of little independent organisations – hence the Party on the Pier on Sunday at Corney Reach, which is an annual event, appears in their festival programme – as well as encouraging people to take part in ongoing projects such as the Big Garden Bird Watch, being organised by the RSPB, and the Big Butterfly Count, organised by Butterfly Conservation.
The festival kicked off with events produced in collaboration with the National Theatre on the South Bank at the weekend and continues across the capital for the rest of the week. While the Party on the Pier seems to be the only event specifically in Chiswick, there are other free things happening, including walks and bird watching in Ealing and Acton. You can see the events in west London here.
The Foundation invites us all to ‘Make a Difference’ by becoming a National Park City Champion. You can become a ‘champion’ by as small an action as planting some wild flowers, or if you’re feeling more adventurous, by being an ambassador for the cause with organisations and companies. Read how to Make a Difference here. One big company which has just signed up to support it is Timberland, which is providing the funds to employ rangers to lead walks.