While the Spring weather has been extremely wet this week it has been really mild and I was quite excited today because I saw my first Galanthus (snowdrop).
It was in Grangewood Park which is what makes me love London so much because you are never very far from open space. The capital is packed with parks and open space which while not always looked after to the standard it deserves is there for us all to use for free. In fact it is one of the only free things left in London.
I was the vice chair of a Friends group in Lambeth responsible for looking after a park which for two years occupied too much of my time and was both at the same time rewarding and extremely frustrating.
The same people that make a park great also make it hard work. Councils are increasingly turning to volunteer labour to run these kinds of amenities because they have no money to properly look after these VIPs (Very Important Parks). In the case of Lambeth they have created park cooperatives where the aim is to offload even more park commitments on to the community and reduce budgets even further.
While councils come up with schemes of management for looking after parks they fail to do the most basics things like collect rubbish or low level maintenance tasks such as removing brambles. My first experience of my now local park Grangewood Park (which is in Croydon) ended with the police being called.
I arrived in the park ready to walk my dogs to find a very panicked woman with a baby in a push chair with a puppy in tow waving at me. So I headed over and soon saw what was panicking her. There was a body on the ground lying face down. It looked like a young girl and wasn’t moving. The woman on the phone was speaking to the ambulance service. I tied my Labs to a tree and said I would check the body on the ground. The Good Samaritan was still speaking to the ambulance service and saying ‘another woman had arrived’ (me that is) and she was ‘braver than she had been as in she was going to check the not moving body.’
I tentatively went over and the eyes on the body flickered – on closer inspection it was a very slight woman not a girl.
I’ve met more than my fair share of ‘individuals’ in my life as a newspaper journalist so am not really surprised at anything any more. I even met Swampy, one of the most famous tree huggers, long before he became infamous when I was working on a local paper in Devon. As it turned out this woman wasn’t far from the same mind set as Swampy and in her own way was communing with nature…. in late December!
I am not sure who looked more annoyed the tree hugger or her scary rainbow coloured trousers. While still in the lying down position she agreed reluctantly to speak to the emergency services to confirm she was in fact OK.
She complained that she should have been asked first whether she was OK before the emergency services were called.
I felt so sorry for the woman who had feared the worst and reassured her that she had done the right thing. I also chastised the ‘tree hugger’ asking her what kind of person lays face down on the ground in December. If it had been a summer’s day no problem but in the middle of Winter?
She grumbled and wandered off still complaining about being interrupted barely acknowledging the presence of two police officers who arrived in a police car but I for one am grateful to the woman who cared enough to call for help.