London National Park City
When you hear the words ‘National Park’ you might think of rolling hills, sheep grazing, a babbling brook or a dense forest. These spaces are often considered to be the antithesis of the urban city environment. Well that’s all about to change as London becomes the world’s first National Park City.
In July 2019, London officially became the world’s first National Park City. Co-signed by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, the charter explains how this movement will better connect Londoners with nature. Through a combination of small and large initiatives, the foundation hopes to increase the amount of green spaces in the city and encourage people to engage in more activities outside. Recently, the National Park City Festival played host to hundreds of free outdoor events across London.
Daniel Raven-Ellison began to wonder if London could become a National Park in 2013 and by the following year the campaign officially began. Fast-forward to 2019 and, not only has Daniel’s dream become a reality, but the Mayor of London has allocated the movement £9 million in his Environment Strategy. It’s wonderful to see an environmental scheme such as this receive high-profile backing and real funding. This movement has the potential to significantly improve people’s wellbeing and make a serious dent in the climate crisis.
Peace, tranquillity and beauty are all words that many would associate with National Parks, but their history is surprisingly volatile. In 1951 the Peak District was established as the first National Park after years of fierce campaigning, during which five men were arrested for trespassing on Kinder Scout in the Peak District. Such was the conviction that National Parks would be of extreme importance and benefit to the nation. According to a report by the RSPB “If children are connected with nature, they are also more likely to be interested in their environment and in taking part in nature-based activities. In other words, children who are connected to nature will enjoy it and want to save it, both now and in the future.” Therefore, nearly 70 years later, National Parks remain enormously important as the access to nature that they provide could be vital to the protection of our planet. When you consider that 80% of the population live in urban areas, the need to establish more National Park Cities is unavoidable. Currently, Newcastle upon Tyne and Glasgow are both campaigning to become the second to city to achieve such status.
The National Park City movement is a collaborative effort. The team need the support of those who live in and around London to achieve their goals. While financial donations are always helpful, the National Park City team value your participation above all else. From attending one of their events to making your own effort, whether large or small, to make London a greener city. It’s as simple as adding a few plants to your windowsill. The Wildlife Trust have found that “Those that have the least access to nature also have the worst levels of physical health and mental wellbeing.” Imagine if everyone on your street added one hanging basket to their house, or one plant pot on their doorstep, you could walk to the end of the road and be exposed to a much greater variety of nature. Find out more about how to become a National Park City Maker here.
The Wildlife Trust know that “Decision-makers are not making the link between nature’s recovery, and our health, wellbeing & prosperity.” So, it’s up to us restore nature in our cities. Without governments leading the way, it’s easy to feel like a lone voice in these times of crisis. By establishing this ground-breaking National Park City, those who are passionate about re-wilding London can work together within one movement. If the government refuses to see what needs to be done to save our planet then we must show them. As Robert Macfarlane states: “what’s good for nature is also good for us all”.