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Green London | Friends Groups: The future of green spaces in the city?

The running of our city’s parks is no mean feat. With just under 500 hectares of public parks and gardens in London and around 10,000 hectares of public green space, there is a lot of grass to cut, trees to maintain and bins to empty. Many of our parks offer more than just the basic amenities, from sporting facilities to bedding displays and places to swim. It can be a stretch for local authorities to deliver the quality of green spaces we expect and have come to rely on during the pandemic. 

Filling the gap, London has just under 1000 Friends groups that take on differing degrees of responsibility for the management of our parks, from monthly activity sessions to remove brambles, to the full management of the park from sports bookings to bedding plants. Our next Green London talk is your opportunity to hear the stories behind of London’s most distinctive Friends groups, and learn about what works, and what doesn’t in different green spaces.  

We are joined by Brenda Little, Chair of Penge Green Gym, now known as Friends of Winsford Gardens. The group started as part of a project initiated by The Conservation Volunteers, and has since progressed into a stand alone volunteer group.  

More about Green London:   

Our Green London talks aim to bring together the groups, organisations and individuals working across the city to make it and keep it green. From guerrilla gardeners to tree growers, the talks are a place for sharing knowledge about how to get things done, where to start when it comes to greening your own neighbourhood and the people behind the successes that have resulted in London being the greenest city in the UK and Europe, and the world’s first National Park City.   

Speakers

  • Brenda Little - Penge Green Gym/ Friends of Winsford Gardens

    Brenda Little - Penge Green Gym/ Friends of Winsford Gardens

    I spent most of my ‘working life’ in various higher education arenas; but when I was made redundant [for a second time] in 2021, I decided to leave ‘higher education’ behind and look for volunteering opportunities in my local area.

    Through my local Bromley Borough webpages, I found out about a recently-established volunteer group, Penge Green Gym [PGG], which met on a weekly basis at a nearby small park, Winsford Gardens [which I had never visited]. During its first couple of years, PGG was run by a project officer from The Conservation Volunteers [www.tcv.org.uk] in partnership with the borough, and supported [with capital funding] by a local shopping centre.

    By the end of two years, there was a planned handover to a management committee comprising volunteers like myself..and I took on the role of Chair of the group. At this point we became a community group, independent of TCV; and also took on the name Friends of Winsford Gardens.

    Over the past ten years, we have had our ‘ups and downs’ and it is down to the resilience and enthusiasm of our volunteers [and committee members] that we continue to thrive, and are now well-known within the local community.

    Outside of community gardening, I also volunteer with Alzheimer’s Society Croydon Singing for the Brain sessions, and run singing sessions at a local day care centre for adults with complex needs.

  • Tori Sherwin - Myatt's Fields Park

    Tori Sherwin - Myatt's Fields Park

    I trained as a journalist before using my skills in fundraising and community development. I moved to my current home near Myatt's Fields Park in 1998 after having my first child, and worked as a volunteer with a group of other people to improve the park. We raised £3 million for Myatt's in 2010 and I've worked for the charity since 2007 as community engagement manager and now director.