People’s front gardens—small areas of defensible space filled with bins, weeds, occasional mattresses, often paved over, but still many offering the passers-by living, growing green shrubs and flowers with vibrant splashes of colour.
The allotments dotted around where people grow vegetables and flowers.
century homes, two-storey houses or flats, the occasional purpose built (but low rise) block, I walk in the streets for half an hour at least three times every day.
I encounter a mostly global community (from Africa, South Asia, South America, the Caribbean and Europe).
I can’t believe the extent of the natural wonders on my doorstep here in north east London.
I burst with pride in my city and my neighbourhood and the accessibility of nature is a large part of that.My neighbours prefer a more manicured look and I think they long to come through our shared gate with forks and shears—but they tolerate our more natural state and we often share a barbecue and drink in one or other of our patches.All of these tiny dots of nature creating a connected ‘green’ necklace strung like the finest pearls through the neighbourhood.On a bad day the nature in this city lifts my spirits and helps me relax from the stresses and bustle of every-day life. I work on scaling up greening in cities across Europe.On a good day it fills me with outright joy—why would I want to live anywhere else? My global city—London—has been a leader in urban greening initiatives for many years.And I think it would be wonderful if we become a National Park City.In preparation for writing this, I asked some of my friends and neighbours what their experiences are of nature in our city.The trees lining streets, softening them and the buildings behind, providing shelter and shade, the wind rustling through the leaves, adding green to the grey.The small parks dotted around, often crammed with something for everyone—children’s play, green gym, table tennis, benches, trees, flowers, even the occasional pond.Both my work and my studies have given me the conceptual and methodological tools to examine nature in the city—so I know the theories and evidence that nature in the city is of value.Yet many research questions remain to be explored; how to measure and evaluate nature in the city, how to introduce or manage quality green space into the city in a way that enhances equity and promotes social cohesion, how to effectively manage storm water and the urban heat island, how can urban greening contribute to improved health and wellbeing?