Can we better connect people with London’s natural treasures? A growing number of people want to see that happen. Wildopeneye is enthused by the proposal from Daniel Raven-Ellison for the creation of a Greater London National Park. Daniel is a founder member of a growing movement to re-envision the green space within Greater London. Known in Victorian times as ‘The Smoke’ for its foul air quality then, London is probably cleaner now than it has ever been. Many of my most treasured natural encounters, and best wildlife images have been here, in London. Andy met Daniel recently at the Outdoor Show and while chatting about The World Parks Congress they found common ground. Andy does a lot of photography in parks in the UK and particularly in his local area around Hampton Court, which offers spectacular opportunities for enjoying nature and for wildlife photography. Where these wild things are comes as a surprise to many!
Not to Daniel though, and who better than a former geography teacher to teach us to look again at the true lay of the land? And to envision the World’s first urban national park! Why do so many of us, residents and visitors alike, think of the metropolis as a singular, urban expanse, rich in cultural heritage, night-life, fashion brands and dining opportunities yes, but for wildlife a desert? He explains that it is the way that we tend to move through it that so colours our perceptions and reinforces prejudices. I encourage you to see Daniel’s website http://www.greaterlondonnationalpark.org.uk/ for a growing exploration of the space now termed “the Greater London Notional Park” that might yet become a recognized reality. Daniel points out that London extends some 1500 km in area, roughly the size of South Yorkshire, is almost half green space and about 60% open area. With 8 million trees, it can fairly be described as the world’s largest urban forest by Forestry Commission England; that’s roughly one tree per human resident and the people share the territory with about 13,000 other native and exotic species, in two Nature reserves, 3000 Parks, 3 million gardens, 30,000 allotments and a host of overgrown cemeteries.
Could we really have an urban National Park? Prejudices aside, London actually appears to meet many of the established key criteria for National Park designation. It offers ample cultural and recreational opportunities and massive potential for human contact with nature. The argument to protect urban biodiversity is compelling. Urban populations of Honeybees have survived better than many in rural areas showing the value of traditional rural crafts maintained in urban settings. What would you want from a Greater London National Park? Daniel is asking currently running a public consultation to elicit ideas and opinions at http://www.greaterlondonnationalpark.org.uk/get-involved/consultation/ I think the environmental education potential is huge. Ongoing efforts to connect and improve areas of green space within the park would be wholesome and economically stimulative for generations to come. Partner opportunities? There are exciting potential partnerships in this great experiment, along with the residents of London and about 15 million foreign visitors per year, there are specific conservation bodies and Kew Gardens, Hampton Court, London Zoo and The Natural History Museum.
Andy Luck has long had a strong personal belief that we need more green spaces amongst our work and living areas and that regular interaction with the beauty of the natural world and appreciation of nature is essential for our personal and collective well-being. Could this be the beginning of urban mankind’s greater reintegration with nature? I hope so. Sign this petition to the Mayor of London to become a joint founder of The Greater London National Park.