The Covid-19 lockdowns we endured (and are enduring) made us all rediscover the importance of having high quality green space on our doorsteps. For those of us who are lucky enough to live in one of the UK’s National Parks or Areas of Outstanding National Beauty, going for our daily walks surrounded by restorative nature and beautiful vistas was food for the soul. But for the majority of us who live in towns and cities, the countryside can feel like it is out of reach or not for us. We want to overcome that.

A year ago today (21st September), the UK government published an independent review of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty by Julian Glover, Associate Editor of the London Evening Standard. His review made 27 proposals including a call for a new focus to stop the decline of nature in these protected landscapes, and to welcome more working class and black, Asian and minority ethnic visitors. One of his proposals stood out to us:

‘Welcoming new landscape approaches in cities and the coast, and a city park competition’

The review praised the creation of the London National Park City in July 2019, highlighting how our urbanised lives aren’t served as well as they might be by the current static system of protected landscapes. And the National Park City movement is anything but static! For example, since the publication of the landscapes review we have:

  • Recruited over 50 National Park City Rangers - enthusiastic and talented volunteers who want to make their bit of London greener, healthier and wilder for all the residents of their Boroughs. Glover recommended that all National Landscapes should have Rangers and should encourage more volunteering, well we’re clearly on it
  • Launched the Prize to Transform the Future of the London city region with Ordnance Survey, Culture Declares and a range of the National Landscapes in the south east of England. Glover recommended just such partnerships between cities and the protected landscapes that surround them
  • Announced our intention to create a 100-person People’s Assembly, representing the diversity of London to advise and guide on activities to improve life in London by making it greener, healthier and wilder. Glover recommended that National Landscapes should establish partnership groups made up of people who represent the interest of those areas.

 

maker paper 2x1

 

Our ambition for London is limitless, but we don’t want to keep all the good stuff just for Londoners. That’s why we have partnered with World Urban Parks and Salzburg Global Seminar to set our ambitions for spreading the National Park City movement around the world. There is enthusiasm bubbling up in places as far afield as Adelaide, Seoul and Sacramento, and as close to home as Newcastle, Glasgow, Swansea and Belfast, among other UK cities. We want to welcome more cities into the National Park City family, growing the movement around the world, improving life in cities for millions more people.

That’s why we are inviting people from cities on every continent to join us in celebrating Urban October - the UN’s global conversation about the future of our cities. With our partners we are hosting a series of events on the theme of Better City, Better Life:

  • On 29th October, our 100 International Voices event will shine a spotlight on the inspiring stories of people working in cities around the world to make life better
  • On 30th October we will be launching our guide for people in cities who want to join the global family of National Park Cities
  • Throughout the month there will be opportunities for emerging leaders to nurture their skills and connections as they develop campaigns and actions in their emerging National Park Cities.

With enough support from enough people in cities all around the world, there is no reason why all urban citizens shouldn’t have the privilege of connecting with nature on their doorsteps, along their streets and in every neighbourhood. Join us in our Urban October events to help make this a reality. Every city can be a National Park City.

 

The Line is a free public art walk between The O2 and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, following the waterways and the line of the Greenwich Meridian.

Featuring an evolving programme of art installations, projects and events, The Line illuminates an inspiring landscape where everyone can explore art, nature and heritage for free.

Allow three hours to complete the entire route on foot or visit different sections on different days – the changing seasons and tides mean no two visits are the same.

Be inspired! Olympian Christine Ohuruogu’s short film highlights the health and wellbeing benefits of spending time on The Line. Why not make it a part of your regular exercise or use The Line as a commuting route?

Fun for the whole family! Make The Line is a free downloadable kids’ activity pack produced and inspired by the artists. The Line is yours to explore.

1a. Alex Chinneck A bullet from a shooting star Image by Chris Tubbs 600x766

Made of Galvanised Steel, this installation by Alex Chinneck is called: "A Bullet from a shooting star".

If you’re looking for something closer to home, try GoParks.London. This FREE interactive map lists some 4000 parks and public green spaces across Greater London.

Wherever you’re going, remember to stay safe. Respect others and be aware of physical distancing. Wash your hands often, take litter home to dispose of it safely, especially single-use masks or plastic gloves.

Photographer Paul Meyler has been on a mission to record the impact COVID-19 has had on central London. He's told us a bit more about the inspiration behind this work and picks three of his favourite shots:

 

"In the current situation with COVID-19 causing a lockdown, like many other photographers, all of my booked shoots have been postponed. This left me wondering what I can do to help people remember these times well in to the future. I decided I'd cycle around the heart of London hoping to capture some memorable images which will help portray the effect this is having on our capital.

I have to admit I was shocked to see just how eerie the usually packed streets of London were. It had a stillness and emptiness that you could only associate with seeing in a movie, I never expected to actually experience this in real life. Rather than seeing the usual crowds, I only saw people who were out for their daily walk or their weekly food shop and sometimes I didn’t come across anyone for a while. I never would’ve imagined England’s capital city could be this deserted, I actually had the time and space to appreciate how beautiful the architecture and landmarks are. We're always so busy in our everyday lives, we don’t take enough time to just stop, look around, and appreciate our surroundings.

I have produced a series of images and amongst these are 3 of my favourites:

001. Regent St c Paul Meyler 
'Regent Street’: Whilst pausing for some water outside the Molton Brown store on Regent Street, I turned and saw this VW Karmann Ghia waiting patiently at a red light. With one of London’s busiest street’s having no other traffic in sight, the image with this classic car could easily have been seen 50 years ago - also easy to identify the location with the iconic Liberty London in the background.

003. NHS c Paul Meyler


‘NHS’ : I came across this powerful piece of street art near Waterloo Station. This is a very significant message for those ’super heroes’ working for the NHS and helping the country fight this virus. As I was looking at this piece of art, two people came riding past on bicycles which can only be hired in central London, these encourage people to stay away from public transport, exercise and experience the city at ground level. 

002. Granary Sq c Paul Meyler


‘Granary Square’: I came across this gentleman in a peaceful Granary Square. He was taking time out to sit and enjoy doing a crossword in the fresh air, but was wearing a face mask which is increasingly becoming a popular accessory as we tackle this pandemic."

Paul Meyler Photographer

Please do share your images of lockdown London adding #LondonNPC to your post.

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