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the GiGLer

The newsletter of Greenspace Information of Greater London CIC

Diary of an Open Space Volunteer

Roger Manser, GiGL Volunteer

Historic herbs in a Bexley park © Roger Manser

London has some wonderful open spaces and some dreadful ones. It has been my one-day-a week job for the last six months to visit them all and check the features GiGL knows to exist. When the weather has been fine, I have jumped on a train, my rucksack full of papers, heading to mostly unheard of destinations.

Generally, the survey sheets I have had to check have been close to the mark. They include the essentials, such as boundaries, access points, information boards, seats, toilets, and car parks. We have also introduced some more exciting features on the check list, including waymarked paths and natural watercourses. The even more fanciful amenities are written up in the notes. In the ten boroughs I have so far visited, these include model railways, cows, water pumps and historical herbs.

Typically, I start by walking the boundaries and verifying access points. Even where a residential road abuts a park, there may be no gate in sight. I remember one stout fence, uncut by human wire cutters, barring me from exiting and locals from entering the open space. Information boards and other official information can be misleading, so human verification is always needed.

This role of unofficial lone park ranger became increasingly appealing to me as I wondered how to spend my retirement. I enjoy walking and the opportunity to volunteer for GiGL was suggested to me at a dinner party. Working with Julie, one of GiGL’s data officers, I combine exploration of Greater London with visits to parks beyond my ken. I jumped at the opportunity. Petts Wood in Bromley ranks among my favourites so far. Other spots proved trickier to verify, such as the marshalling yards behind the relatively unknown Pevensey Road Nature Reserve in Richmond. They appear on the OS as a white empty space, but luckily a GiGL fan happened to be passing my way and helped me navigate the old cavalry bridge under the railway to Hounslow Heath, and the Crane Park extension. Sometimes Julie’s work even led me to rediscover open spaces I had once known as when, by chance, I found the crematorium that had seen the last of my father. That sad day now has a clear location. Thank you.

It is important that GiGL partnership data is accurate which is why data verification is a vital part of our work. This is one of the reasons Roger’s work is so valuable to us. Roger is also helping us to fill some gaps in the data. Although we work with the London boroughs and other data providers to ensure data is as up-to-date as possible, information on facilities and access points is hard to check without actually visiting those sites. This is something Roger is helping us with enormously. We are very thankful for his time.

If you fancy becoming a GiGL volunteer please do get in touch with Julie.

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