Third Birthday Party at OmVed Gardens

London officially became the world’s first National Park City in June 2019. This summer, we celebrated three years of helping make London healthier, greener and wilder at a Ranger-led event at OmVed Gardens in North London. Ranger Chantal wrote about her experience on the day.

By Chantal Wooden, with additional information and editing by Zabby Allen.

London National Park City Anniversary 2022 Omved Marlon Earthing

My Ranger Story

Recently, a memory popped up on my Facebook from 2019. It was a post from Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, announcing that London had been declared the world’s first National Park City. As a Londoner, I felt great joy in sharing this news, and, in early 2020, I was proud to become one of the first London National Park City Rangers. We are a team of passionate volunteers helping make London healthier, greener and wilder.

A combination of Covid restrictions and personal commitments meant that, until this summer, I’d only attended one in-person National Park City event, so when I received an invite to LNPC’s third birthday celebration I jumped at the chance to attend.

This year’s theme was ‘Reconnect and Reimagine’ and the event was held at OmVed Gardens, an urban greenscape in North London. There are now over 150 LNPC Rangers with a huge range of interests and expertise, so I was excited to meet some like-minded nature lovers – just what I needed to get reinspired.

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london national park city third aniversary event omved gardens rangers blog Ranger Chris

The Location – OmVed Gardens

When I first became interested in LNPC, I was amazed by the abundance and diversity of green spaces across the city – not just the well-known places, but the smaller, lesser known locations too – OmVed Gardens is a great example of this. Walking along Highgate High Street, one would never guess such a glorious haven is hiding just a few moments away.

The space is beautifully landscaped, making it difficult to believe it was once a tarmacked, dead space. The OmVed community have done an incredible job of increasing the location’s ecological value, transforming a barren wasteland into a rich and diverse eco habitat that includes a wildflower meadow, an orchard and a thriving vegetable garden. However, OmVed’s importance reaches much wider than that – it’s a creative space with a focus on food growing, nature connection and biodiversity. All of this made it the perfect location for LNPC to celebrate and discuss plans for the coming year.

As I arrived and walked toward the modern glasshouse construction at OmVed, I could hear a mix of joyful voices – Rangers, trustees, staff and volunteers were already enjoying a ‘speed meeting’ icebreaker. I looked around, taking in the large panes of glass that allowed the beauty of OmVed’s gardens inside. Wise old trees towered above and around us. It’s no secret that being outdoors is proven to be good for the mind, helping to calm and centre us, as well as aiding our creativity. OmVed is the embodiment of this.

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london national park city third anniversary event omved gardens rangers blog lesley workshop

Events on the Day

To help us celebrate three years of London’s National Park City status, a range of events, discussions and presentations were scheduled, giving us the opportunity to meet other Rangers and learn from one another.

I happily got involved, creating clay sculptures inspired by the space around us, in a session led by Ranger Paula. I was also able to attend a relaxing and informative barefoot yoga class, or ‘Earthing’ session, led by Ranger Marlon, which incorporated the importance of grounding oneself and connecting with the world beneath our feet.

Lesley (The Orchard Project mentor) hosted a wildflower seed bomb making workshop, Aude helped Rangers make electronic badges and Elly ran a nature-inspired embroidery and mending workshop. Mike, Jack, and Emily brought along their co-created prototaxite sculpture and Mo brought Together South’s collaborative artwork, Healing 2022, so there was plenty to do and look at throughout the day.

I took great pleasure in finally meeting people face-to-face who I had only ever seen online, in addition to hearing talks, ranging from the importance of councils keeping front gardens green rather than paved, to hearing about London’s orchards and natural grass meadows. There was also info on the LNPC Schools Network, The London Fungus Network, Youth Work Week 2022 and various other local events and projects Rangers are passionate about.

Musician Stacey Cohen played us out at the end of the day with her distinctive nature-inspired sound.

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Why is this so important?

Just two weeks prior to the event, London experienced a record high of 40.2 degrees at St James’ park. The world is undergoing a climate crisis. July 2022 was the driest July since 1911, with only 24% of the amount of rain that would normally be expected.

As such, I am more aware than ever of the importance of people who value and improve their surroundings, making things better not only for our own mental health but also the health of everything around us, including our more-than-human communities. The London National Park City third anniversary event reminded me that every action, big or small, can have a really positive impact, be it on individuals, neighbourhoods or wider communities.

So, whilst it was fun to meet a few Rangers, I was fundamentally reminded that this vast and diverse metropolis consists of many amazing spaces, projects and events, and is filled with people advocating for the environment and nature at this critical point in our history.

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Chantal Wooden is a London Nation Park City Ranger for Brent who loves hiking in her own city. Having always had an interest in the natural world, she graduated in Zoology & Psychology. Chantal strongly believes that a connection with nature is critical for mental health and wellbeing and will result in a natural respect of the environment. She understands how important it is to draw people’s attention to green spaces, particularly in cities, and has a Shinrin Yoku (forest bathing) guiding certificate. Chantal is currently working on the Wanderful London project which aims to uncover the amazing wildlife, green spaces, events and knowledge across London by creating a green platform accessible to Londoners.

london national park city third aniversary event omved gardens rangers blog yoga

Want to support London National Park City?

Find out how you can get involved or donate to help us make our city greener, healthier and wilder.

Photos courtesy of Mark Cridge, Michael Shilling and Elly Platt.

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