BY SEAN DELANEY
A borough has been given the top prize for having the best parks and green spaces in London.
Lewisham has been named as the top London borough for parks and green spaces and has been praised for the high quality facilities it provides.
The scoring criteria in the Good Parks for London Report 2018 considered factors such as public satisfaction, supporting nature, community involvement, sustainability and hosting events.
A resident from Lewisham who took on the challenge of walking all 45 of his local borough’s parks in one day has praised the sheer scale of community events and the diversity of nature observed in what has been named London’s best parks.
Jack Cornish, 32, of Manwood Road in Crofton Park, said: “The amount of things you can do in the parks is pretty staggering.
“Seeing so many people use the parks for walking, cycling, jogging, rollerblading, jumpers for goalposts football.
“I think the thing that makes our parks in Lewisham is that they are truly used and loved by the community.”
Jack took on the challenge of walking all 45 of Lewisham’s parks after hearing his friend take on a similar challenge in Hackney.
The journey took Jack more than 10 hours to complete as he trekked all 25 sq miles of Lewisham’s parks from New Cross to Forest Hill.
Jack praised the sheer variety of parks, saying: “From the big parks set on the hills – Hilly Fields, Telegraph Hill and Horniman Gardens – to hidden parks I didn’t even know were there”.
The parks and open spaces have been part-managed with the town hall since 2000 by Glendale.
They combine events management with traditional grounds maintenance. Adrian Wickham, the managing director at Glendale, said: “We’re committed to creating and maintaining green spaces for all to enjoy, so we’re thrilled the work we do in Lewisham has contributed to the borough’s parks being recognised as some of the best in the capital.
“Parks are important places and a key factor in ensuring social cohesion, and the work we do in Lewisham, such as the staging of events, can attract local people who wouldn’t usually spend time there.”
Holding sporting events such as marathons or sponsored walks is also an effective way of promoting the benefits of exercising in green spaces, for example improved physical and mental health.”
Lewisham’s parks and open spaces were also praised for their ability to host a diverse range of community, sporting, arts and cultural events, from dog shows to Eid celebrations and large-scale music festivals such as OnBlackheath.
Alana Sheridan, chairwoman of Friends of Mayor Park, said: “My park is much appreciated by local people with its facilities for young and old, spaces for socialising, for exercise, competitive sports and for community events.”
Lewisham is one of only four local authorities in the country and the only London borough to be awarded a National Pilot status for developing its own approach to tackling obesity.
It has achieved this through the installation of outdoor gyms and the hosting of free weekly events to allow people to exercise outside without having to pay any money.
Lisa Power, 43, of Elsiemaud Road in Brockley, is one of the event directors at Hilly Fields junior parkrun, a free running event for children aged four to 14, held every Sunday morning.
She said: “In an era where so much of what we do revolves around screens and electronic devices and being digitally connected, there is something so nice about getting people together in a park, whatever the weather, enjoying some exercise for fun and making connections outside normal work or school groups.
“One of the things I particularly love about parkrun is that I have lots of friends and acquaintances that I meet every week at Hilly Fields.
“Similarly, my kids have made friends with children of different ages and from different schools who they see in the park each week, that they wouldn’t have met otherwise.”
Last year, Lewisham was given 15 Green Flag awards for its parks and green spaces. Councillor Chris Best, deputy Mayor and cabinet member for health and adult social care, said: “This is fantastic news and we are very proud.
Maintaining quality green spaces is so important for our communities.
I’d like to congratulate all the Glendale staff, park user groups and members of the local community who work tirelessly to look after our valuable green spaces.
“They have all helped in achieving and maintaining this high standard.”
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