Fans of the film Notting Hill will remember Hugh Grant describing London’s communal gardens as mysterious ‘little villages’, and to some extent...he had a good point.
Venture into any of these enclosed green spaces - or any park for that matter - on a summer’s afternoon and chances are you’ll be met with a restorative sense of community spirit, for want of a better word.
Clusters of runners, dog walkers, cyclists, picnicers and fresh-air seekers far and wide who lend what can only be described as a ‘human element’ to an otherwise solo pursuit such as walking or jogging. This, perhaps, is a large part of the mechanism by which parks can influence health for the better. It’s not just the physical activity they permit, nor the re-engagement with nature they encourage (though these are often the most talked about factors in play.) It’s the ability to help those people whose primary interaction of the day might have been with a computer screen, to feel part of something bigger than their own work/life bubble.
The value of this can’t be underestimated, especially in our increasingly digital modern times. In this context, parks are a reassuring and refreshing reminder of a life outside the box, both physically and metaphorically.
It’s for this reason, and many others, that Love Parks Week - the annual celebration of our green spaces - was coined! After all, the more we all embrace the park life, in all its forms, the more energy these spaces will eventually abound for us and others to vibe off when we need it most.
We asked three runners, Tom Dilrew, Dave Richards and Katie Brown what it is about parks that they rate most in terms of their lifestyle and fitness goals:
'Parks in cities and urban areas are essential for mental health and wellbeing. I’m a runner and am often doing long distance training runs while living in a city. Having access to parks and green spaces takes me away from the city streets and into places where I can train my best.’
“In a world increasingly dependent on technology, it is hard to escape an ever-connected lifestyle. We often forget to slow down and simply get outside. In the U.K. we are extremely lucky to have so many parks and green spaces. For me they act as a form of free therapy. I can run, bike or simply walk the dog to disconnect and feel the full benefits of some fresh air.”
'As a busy Londoner, you would expect that the key criteria when searching for my next rental-property would be good transport links, nearby shops etc. For me, however, being close to green open spaces where I can spend my summer evenings and weekends running around getting lost over fields and trails has become somewhat of a deal breaker.
The opportunities I get to run over parks are the ones I look forward to most, because it’s that rare part of the week I get to escape the busy 9-5 City life, truly switch off and feel excited at the thought of finding an unexplored path through the forest areas of a park.
There’s a unique sense of community when running or walking through green open spaces and the prospect of talking to a complete stranger wouldn’t feel out of place. Something you certainly wouldn’t feel on some London roads!'