What part of London is home and how long have you lived there?
I grew up in Ruislip in NW London and have lived in Peckham since 1993.
I have always loved being out and about and never really sit still. I am naturally curious, love to gather knowledge and discover new things. I have never really needed to sleep too much so as I had more time in my day, I found that outside of work, I wanted to keep active. Therefore, I naturally find myself out and about and getting involved in a range of things. I have always been of the view that what is in my area is mine and therefore, it is my responsibility to do something!
What are your favourite things about where you live?
I live in Northfields House which is a block in Southwark. Since 2000, its grounds have been considered a site of interest for nature consideration (SINC).
This all began years back when the residents at the time didn't like that the grounds had areas of bear concrete and mowed grass. We realised many of us had the same feeling. It started off with the main focus being around gardening, but the more we got to know each other, it morphed into something bigger and we became a community of people all wanting to make a positive difference.
"What is in my area is mine, therefore, it is my responsibility to do something!"
For various reasons, the block at that time wasn't recognised by the council so in the 1980s things started to progress quite rapidly.
A few years ago we build a 21 meter raised bed to grow vegetables. I have always felt that allotments can be restrictive and aren't for everyone, therefore a community growing area is a great thing to have. It gets people together. We don't allocate space, you can grow anywhere and everywhere.
What is also great is that most of us just pick what is needed, meaning that the growth is much more productive and we all get to enjoy it.
...we became a community of people all wanting to make a positive difference.
What do you want others to know about your area?
Cossall Park and Kirkwood Nature Reserve are only a 20 minute walk away (I do walk very quickly). Nunhead cemetry is also very close. It is a wonderful space and really well looked after.
I am also really fortunate to be local to the Peckham Coal line. This is a community-led project to reconnect Peckham’s communities with a new linear park linking Queens Road Peckham and Rye Lane. It will also open up business possibilities and creating new green space. The line was originally use to take coal from Kent to Peckham which now ends at the Nature Reserve by Queens Road. Phase1 has been put on hold due to corona virus but once things open up, this will create a green space that continues from the Nature Reserve.
Where is your favourite part of London for nature?
Lady Gilbert's Orchard in Stanmore is an incredible space which is a veteran orchard meaning that it contains some species of apple that are the last known living variety. Lady Gilbert was the wife of Sir W. S Gilbert of Gilbert and Sullivan fame and the house on the grounds is now a hotel.
Stave Hill Ecological Park is another wonderful space. It is run by volunteers and was created after the war. At that time, children played around old bomb sites. Rather than discouraging them, the idea was to make them into more inviting spaces. The man who originally started it went off to set up the WWF.
I love that it is open to all and how this man made space has turned into an area that is rich in biodiversity being able to find endangered species such as the lesser stag beetle and Rebecca Clark who runs it is filled with amazing knowledge and is so easy to talk to.
I visited Barnes Wetland centre on the day they opened back in 2000. The 29.9 hectare site was created from four disused Victorian reservoirs. Two years after its opening it was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. I used to visit it frequently and then stopped. When I went back 3 years later, it was so interesting to see what it looked like and how quickly it developed, it made me realise that where there was nothing, it can become something which adds a huge value to everyone.
"...where there was nothing, it can become something which adds a huge value to everyone."
Lesley is a mentor with the Orchard project and has been working with communities for much of her life.