Opinion: The park - a paradise for mind and body

Oliver Sells QC, City of London Corporation�s, West Ham Park Committee, urges everyone to use parks

Oliver Sells QC, City of London Corporation�s, West Ham Park Committee, urges everyone to use parks responsibly to keep them open. - Credit: Archant

West Ham Park, the largest park in the London Borough of Newham, has been managed by the City of London Corporation since 1874, when it was opened to the public.

The park has a rich and diverse cultural history spanning back over 400 years. In 2004, English Heritage awarded the site Grade II status on their Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest.

In just three years, our ‘Green Spaces, Learning Places’ programme has given over 120,000 Londoners, including 42,000 schoolchildren alone, opportunities to enrich their lives with outdoor learning, improve wellbeing and have more access to nature. In February, young refugees from Eritrea, Afghanistan and Vietnam came to West Ham Park and took part in activities designed to boost their self-esteem and provide a peaceful and restorative experience. They made fires, created baskets using willow, created a dead hedge and planted wildflowers.

Gardening can reduce anxiety experienced in young and old alike and it’s incredible how much you can grow even in the smallest of spaces. If you can’t get outside, salad vegetables from seedlings can grow well indoors, as can small carrots, beets, radishes, herbs and flowers.

Get some inspiration from Salmagundi Films, who will be bringing ‘Urban Tropics’ to the park with their creative sessions in photography, drawing and animation. Drawing is a great way to relax and the park has plenty in flower to photograph and draw: Hybrid tea varieties Francesca (apricot in colour), Lady Emma Hamilton (tangerine/orange blooms) and other shrub roses, like Buff Beauty (yellow blooms) and ‘Rhapsody in Blue’, with their purple-magenta flowers.

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We’ve all been experiencing very different times over the past few months and never could we have imagined we would be asking people to think about how they use green spaces. Everyone who works in the park believes passionately in its benefits to physical and mental health and it’s now essential we all work together in making sure we can stay open.

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