Updated: Sep 11, 2020
What part of London is home and how long have you lived there?
I I grew up in Ruislip in NW London, then moved around north London and before
moving to Peckham in 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 up to me to improve and therefore, it is my responsibility to do something!
What are your favourite things about where you live?
I live in Northfield House which is a block in Southwark. Since 2000, its grounds have been considered a site of interest for nature conservation (SINC).
This all began back in 1980, when the residents at the time didn't like that the grounds had areas of bear bare concrete and mowed grass. It started off with the main focus trying to replicate the biodiversity lost when the canal than ran close by was filled in (1974) 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 2000 things started to progress quite rapidly.
"What is in my area is mine, therefore, it is my responsibility to do something!"
In 2010 we set up a group; Growing Southwark, to provide growing food help and we built a 21 meter long curved raised bed to grow vegetables, in a local park. 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 people have learnt just pick what is needed, meaning that the growth is much more productive and 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 a member of 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 The Trust for Urban Ecology 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.
All photos provided by Lesley with the exception of Stave Hill - http://www.fordw.org.uk/stave-hill-ecological-park/ and the Peckham Coal Line future view - from the Evening Standard
Lesley lives in Peckham which is on the Royal and south line on the #GreengrounMap
For TFL, it can be reached by train with good access to buses.
Find the full Greenground Map here