Community events, freshly-grown vegetables and woodland walks are just a few things that have sprung up at Horsenden Hill over the last couple of years, thanks to the hard work of the local ‘friends’ group.
The Friends of Horsenden Hill now manages the council-owned site and organises local community projects there with council support. Its chair Lynda O’Hare (pictured above with council park ranger Jon Staples) said: “We got started in the summer of 2016 and have worked with, and been supported by, park rangers from Ealing Council ever since. We’re proud of what we have already achieved in this short amount of time.”
This collective of dedicated residents and volunteers is a great example of people doing their bit to make the most of their local park – and is a model for how other parks could be run.
PARKS FOUNDATION GIVES YOU A SAY
In fact, having a greater say in your green spaces is about to get easier following the recent establishment of an Ealing Parks Foundation.
Set up by Ealing Council in November last year, the Parks Foundation will operate as a charitable organisation with residents, friends groups and a board of trustees all playing a significant role in shaping the future of the borough’s green spaces. The aim will be to encourage volunteering, with all its many social, mental and even career benefits; while also providing opportunities for all residents to take part in community activities and to stay healthy and active in a variety of ways.
FROM ROYAL VISITORS TO FOREST SCHOOLS
Lynda explained what has been happening at Horsenden: “We have created pathways and vegetable beds to enable more people to enjoy the community gardens.
“We’ve transformed the public toilets and are currently reinstating and repairing walking trails on Horsenden Hill, meaning more people can enjoy and explore this wonderful open space. We were awarded ‘Outstanding’ in the 2018 London in Bloom Awards and the icing on the cake was a visit from HRH The Duke of Kent who was delighted with our work.”
One of the council’s park rangers, Jon Staples, has been heavily involved from the outset, lending a lot of his own personal determination to the project. He has also been leading a project to build a traditional wooden shelter using wood from the site – not unlike a larger version of a Celtic roundhouse he built at nearby Litten Nature Reserve. This will be used by independent forest schools for a variety of things – including children’s outdoor activities on Sundays, for ages four-12; as well as art, music, craft courses and yoga for all ages.
It will add to the regular events and activities already available for the whole community to get involved with.
Lynda explained: “There’s so much going on here for people to enjoy and participate in – from woodland crafts and our annual Apple Day fayre, to guided walks, open air theatre and community volunteer days when anyone can turn up to do a bit of gardening or simply enjoy some company and conversation in the fresh air.”
‘ENERGISED AND MORE ALIVE’
“Local students keep the farm tidy and manage their herb bed every Friday during term time,” added Lynda. “And staff from organisations such as Bloomberg, Barclays plc and HSBC make a massive contribution on their corporate volunteer days with activities ranging from mulching the orchard to erecting fences and much more in between.
“There is much evidence about how green spaces can improve mental health and wellbeing. We have seen first-hand the positive impact that Horsenden offers, whether it’s walking on the hill or attending one of the community gardening sessions that operate at Horsenden, people feel energised and more alive after spending time here. We are very pleased to be strengthening our mental health agenda with a new series of walks for wellbeing in the new year.”
‘AN ABSOLUTELY VITAL ROLE’
Councillor Mik Sabiers, the council’s cabinet member for environment and highways, said: “Organisations such as the Friends of Horsenden Hill play an absolutely vital role in ensuring the local community gets the most out of the borough’s beautiful green spaces.
“We have established the Parks Foundation to work alongside the council to further empower local residents, communities, and friends groups to have a real say in how get the best out of their parks.”