In the latest in our series of staff blogs, Fields in Trust's Head of Programmes, Angela Lewis, writes a personal account of how parks and green spaces have directly supported her well being over the summer.
As the clocks go back, with the prospect of a few months of dark evenings, I’ve been reflecting on what I’m calling ‘the summer I wasn’t expecting’. At the end of May, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, which was a complete shock as I didn’t have any symptoms – thank goodness for mammograms!
Obviously here at Fields in Trust, we all appreciate the importance of parks and green spaces, but sometimes I think it takes something major to realise exactly how vital they are to our health and wellbeing.
Aside from fantastic support from my wonderful family and friends, not to mention my amazing colleagues at Fields in Trust, I have no doubt that having access to parks and green spaces played a huge part in my recovery from surgery and radiotherapy, both physically and in terms of my mental wellbeing.
I have so many good memories from the summer while I was undergoing treatment, including daily walks in my local park, a long walk with a friend over Epsom Downs, with the reward of a pub lunch at the end, and celebrating ‘school’s out’ at the end of term. Sitting in the sun, with good friends and a glass of wine, while watching our children playing football – what’s not to like? We also looked after a friend’s dog one weekend and being a lively collie she helped us to explore all corners of the park – taking us to parts we hadn’t ventured to before.
We also spent a few days in the Isle of Wight, and it was good to go back to Chale Recreation Ground – a QEII Field – where I started and finished a walk around the island three years ago. While I was walking 100km to raise money for Cancer Research UK, little did I think that I would be a beneficiary of their work just a few years later!
The results of our recent research told us that a significant number of people who live in urban areas are motivated to use parks and green spaces as a ‘home away from home’ to socialise with friends, relax and picnic. And I did just that one lovely sunny afternoon, with my extended family, and the visit to one of our beautiful local parks included us all taking the chance to visit the memorial bench, in memory of my uncle, which is where the photo above was taken.
My other main reason to visit a park during my treatment and recovery was to watch my daughter play football. Grassroots football is almost totally reliant on public playing fields, and as we travel around the county it’s great to visit playing fields protected with Fields in Trust, including King George V playing fields, protected over 80 years ago.
I would like all the parks I visited this summer to be protected in perpetuity with Fields in Trust, as it’s only then that we can be sure they will be there for our children and their children too. The inescapable fact is that there is growing pressure on land for housing, and whilst there are 2,809 parks and green spaces are protected with us, that’s only around 6% of publicly accessible local green space. And once lost, they are lost forever.
Green Spaces are good, they do good, and they should be protected for good. Don’t take your local park for granted, check on our postcode field finder to see if it’s protected, and if not, ask the landowner (likely to be the local Council) to do so.
Thankfully I’m now fully recovered and back at work and determined to keep walking in my local park. And although winter is on its way, that’s no reason not to get out and about and enjoy the parks and green spaces near you – I certainly will be!
Angela Lewis is Fields in Trust Head of Programmes and Development Manager for Central England. She can be contacted by any of the below means.
t: 020 7427 2111
Angela Lewis is Fields in Trust's Head of Programmes and has a Development Manager role covering the East and West Midlands, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire. She joined Fields in Trust in 2011 with a focus on the QEII Fields Challenge and now leads the organisation’s work on the Centenary Fields programme. Angela has always worked in sport and leisure for a variety of organisations at a national, regional and local level including Sport England and London Borough of Richmond.