Though it’s not officially spring yet, the area I live in has begun to change and the little green space opposite our flat has come alive.
When we moved into the flat in November, the whole area was quiet, tucked up for winter. We hardly saw anyone and the space between our houses felt huge. Since the warmer weather has started to arrive, the streets are beginning to fill up. The birds in our trees are singing, snowdrops planted on the green are in full flower and people are emerging from their winter.
Early mornings on the green often start with tai chi practitioners, working slowly and deliberately through their sequence of movements. They are followed by dog walkers and people on their way to work. Afternoons now see children back from school playing on the make-shift swing or kicking a ball around.
Yesterday, children from the local Sunday school spilled out from the Church Hall, escorted by white-robed nuns, to run around and play football with some other boys and their dad, whilst another boy was pushed on the rope swing. Next to arrive were three rainbow-haired young adults with their ferrets—this is Yorkshire, after all — who allowed their animals to enjoy a run around on the grass in the fresh spring air. Later, the football and ferrets were replaced by a family with a frisbee and a dog who was having enormous fun chasing around after the flying disc.
It’s not a perfect space, I know that. We have early morning tai chi, but we do sometimes also have late-night drinkers. But they’re quiet, and one of our community minded neighbours leaves a bin liner hooked over the edge of the bench, so they’re tidy too. The same neighbour cleared the leaves away from under the trees, so those snowdrops had space to flower. I suspect she’s the guerrilla gardener responsible for their existence in the first place. She’s someone I’d like to know better.
Yesterday we threw our windows open to let in the air and witnessing people using the green over the whole day gave me a feeling of lightness and of happiness. And of the confirmation, yet again, of the importance of green space close to where people live. It’s not a big space but it matters. The people living in this area live in a combination of whole houses, flats that are created from those houses, and social housing. No matter what we live in, we share a common lack of green space of our own. The houses are huge, but they are not blessed with large gardens; certainly they’re not big enough to kick a football. So having somewhere across the street for a run about is vital. Study after study has proven the importance of the natural environment for people’s physical and mental well-being, and although the occasional trip to a National Park is a wonderful thing, what people do in their everyday life matters more.
I’m very thankful to see our community start to come alive and to use the green. And I look forward to becoming more involved in it as the spring turns into summer…