CHAMPION: Saying thank you to green space guardians this Volunteers’ Week

As this year's Volunteers' Week draws to a close, here at Fields in Trust we want to say our thank you to those green space guardians who go the extra mile for our nation's parks and green spaces.

Volunteers have always been central to ensuring local parks are welcoming and enjoyable places for the local community but with the significant reduction in local council funding and resulting pressure on parks maintenance, many more Friends of parks groups have stepped up to take on volunteer work, from litter picking to organising community activities.

Each year the Fields in Trust Awards celebrates the individuals who work to make the UK's parks the best they can be and last year’s ceremony at Lord's Cricket Ground was no different. Such was the quality of nominations in 2017 we recognised not one but two Community Champions for their dedication to their local green spaces – Marc Ellul and Kazia Knight.

Marc is the chair of three Friends Groups, including at Fields in Trust protected Tatem Park in north London, and is a tireless organiser of events and fundraisers to improve his local parks, whilst Kazia has been Chairwoman since the formation of the Friends of Sandringham Park in Wetherby and is the driving force for improvement and positive change.

Also recognised at the Awards was Young Champion Kimberley Mpukusa (pictured above, second from right) whose volunteer work as a tennis coach and mentor at several parks has significantly reduced the marginalisation of women and girls in deprived areas of Swansea.

Awarded for the first time in 2017 was the Friends Group of the Year award. Having formed in 2004 to campaign for the park's regeneration, Friends of Angel Meadow in Manchester were chosen as the winners from a long list of worthy nominations. The Award recognised their work transforming the abandoned site into the green retreat it is today, amid the bustle of the city.

These are just four examples of the work undertaken by thousands of green space volunteers across the country, come rain or shine, to ensure their local parks can remain the vital green lungs of our communities. Whilst volunteer support cannot replace professional maintenance of parks these small groups are trying to make a big difference, connecting communities and helping to reduce isolation and loneliness.

Fields in Trust ourselves are directly grateful for the support of volunteers who make up our Board of Trustees and Committees in Scotland and Wales. The Fields in Trust Council is comprised of fourteen Trustees, chaired by Tim Phillips CBE, who meet quarterly and guide our work protecting, supporting and championing green spaces for good. In Scotland and Wales our work is supported by national committees chaired by Brian Samson and Brynmor Williams respectively. We are grateful for their generous donation of time and expertise to help further our charitable objectives.

As well as recognising green space volunteers we also support this valuable network through our comprehensive online Knowledge Base. This self-service library of information provides advice on a range of green space issues as well as signposting to other resources and guidance.

If you're inspired to volunteer at your local park then see if there is a Friends of group you can get involved with, or if not then why not consider setting one up? The National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces is the umbrella organisation for Friends of groups across the UK and can help to put you in touch with groups close to you or give advice on establishing a new group.

If you know a fantastic Friends of group or a commendable Community Champion then why not nominate them for the Fields in Trust Awards later this year. Sign-up to receive the Fields in Trust e-bulletin by completing the form at the bottom of this page to be the first to hear when nominations open.

Or perhaps you've been inspired to organise a community event on your local green space this summer. Have a Field Day is a national celebration of our parks and green spaces, taking place on Saturday 7th July. Perhaps you'll have a party in the park, a sports day, a village fete, or maybe you'll join others across the country enjoying a Have a Field Day picnic! Let us know by registering your event today.

To all those park and green space volunteers across the UK from the team here at Fields in Trust - thank you!