Green award ‘a boost’ to gardeners’ morale

International recognition for park tended by volunteers through Covid and extreme heatwave

Friday, 5th August — By George Hayes

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Tony Jeffs and Paul Spreadberry from The Friends of Barnsbury Square Gardens with the award. Photo: The Friends of Barnsbury Square Gardens

“CHUFFED” Islington gardeners who devoted every morning to their local park during the pandemic have had their hard work recognised with an international award.

Barnsbury Square Gardens and Kings Square Gardens were given a Green Flag Award, a worldwide quality marker for green spaces, after volunteers worked tirelessly during the pandemic to turn them into community hubs.

This comes after the UK recorded its highest temperatures, casting doubt on the ability of sites such as London to cope with extreme heat.

Lucy Kilborn, who chairs The Friends of Barnsbury Square Gardens, said: “I feel chuffed that we got it and I was very proud. It was a nice boost to everyone’s morale and volunteers who dedicated many, many hours.

“Recognising green spaces will begin to contribute to more wildlife-friendly measures, like planting trees to make spaces cooler. And the more people invest, the more that encourages them to think about climate change”, said Ms Kilborn.

Lucy Kilborn

Other Islington green spaces retained their Green Flag status, awarded by Keep Britain Tidy, a UK-based independent environmental charity, including Whittington Park, Arundel Square, and Highbury Fields.

“If you are getting up at eight o’clock each morning it is great to have that external validation from an external body – it is a great compliment”, said Ms Kilborn.

Ms Kilborn also spoke about the mental health benefits of parks, with 2,208 Green Flag winners UK-wide.

“There are definitely more people using parks now, you get a mix of people, from carers and people doing their PhDs to elderly people just there for a chat. Meeting a new social group allows people to talk about all sorts of things and this can take you out of yourself,” added Ms Kilborn.

Eighty-eight per cent of parents of children aged 4-11 say going to the park makes their child happier, and 65 per cent say it made their child calmer, according to YouGov research.

Ms Kilborn said everyone is welcome to come along, either alone or with a friend, to volunteer or just for a chat.

“We try and get all ages in and volunteers are always grateful – you can never have too many hands on deck,” she said.

Any free-to-enter green space can apply for a Green Flag Award.

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