Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Why Parks Must be Safe Places

When crime is rife, and it is felt that no one cares, then people stop reporting crime anymore, because, “What’s the point? They never do anything about it!” It was for this reason that Neighbourhood Watch and Park Watch schemes were first set up to capitalise on community involvement.

Ten years ago, Winsford Gardens, Penge, London, was mostly unknown even to local residents. It had been well-kept during the 1980’s but left to it’s own devices in more recent years. If it was known, then it was avoided because it was overgrown with no clear lines of sight, and it was a haunt of alcoholics, for drug injecting and general anti-social behaviour. No one cared about that unloved place, and if that had continued it would have fallen further into dereliction, and then it would have be very likely to have been sold for housing development.

Winsford Gardens changed in 2011. By tidying it up and keeping it clean, adding new beds, features and flowers, the Penge Green Gym made it welcoming and inviting once again. As more people used the park, and saw that people cared about the space, it also became safer to use. We still had vandalism and setbacks, especially in the hours after dark, but the presence of local people who felt they now owned this park eventually meant that the anti-social behaviour moved elsewhere. This has reached a peak during lockdown. The park is heavily used every day by people of all ages including families. A playgroup visits most days. Parents feel the playground is safe for young children to play. If there is any anti-social behaviour, then other park users immediately tell us about it. People are so appreciative of the space we have created that they now give us cash donations, some on a regular monthly basis. We have achieved Community Green Flag status for the last five years running, were awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, and have been showered with other awards.

This was not hugely expensive to achieve. Local volunteers gave their time for free. Tools, equipment and signage were donated by a local companies. We have been very successful at applying for and winning grant funding. All that it really required really was for some people to give a damn! And to have the full backing of Bromley Council.

Now contrast Winsford Gardens with it’s nearest local park, Betts Park, where it appears that Bromley Council has given up on keeping it safe anymore. In a full council meeting on Monday 20th July 2020, responding to questions following the recent murder there; a shooting to the back of the head, the portfolio holder for Public Protection refused any CCTV in the park. Councillor Lymer says people should avoid going to parks when it’s dark, and for years the Council has continued to decline calls to provide more lighting in Betts Park and other local parks, saying that they did not want people to be given the impression that the parks were safe places after dark.

This is simply unacceptable. We cannot have "No Go Areas" or a curfew within our city, especially places where children and young families go to play and to exercise. Local people now avoid Betts Park. There is little point in keeping the grass cut, planting flower beds and installing outdoor exercise equipment if people do not feel safe. This becomes a self-perpetuating downward cycle in the manner of the Stockholm Syndrome and Broken Window Theory, when the visible signs of crime, anti-social behaviour, and civil disorder create an urban environment that encourages further crime and disorder, including more serious crimes.

If you use Winsford Gardens as a case study, then you cannot hope to turn things around until you first give the impression that the park is safe and that you are doing everything in your power to make it so. You cannot have any local community involvement or the community reporting crime if people avoid going there. The alternative is for the gangs to move in and for gang culture to prevail. Not only will you lose the park, but you will lose an entire generation of children to this gang culture too.

David Fergusson

#parksmatter #loveyourpark #loveyourlocalpark #loveparks #parkswatch

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Pop Up Plant Sale

Winsford Gardens, Croydon Road, Penge is having a pop-up plant sale this Saturday 6th June, 12noon - 3pm.  Do come along with your cash [no change given] and bags, and get some plants grown by the Penge Green Gym Community Group of local volunteers. 
All proceeds go towards maintaining Winsford Gardens

Saturday, 11 April 2020

Penge Green Gym Newsletter April 2020

See what's happening in Penge this week....

Penge Green Gym Newsletter

Happy Easter from Winsford Gardens

Even though the volunteers are not meeting at the park on a Wednesday at the moment we wanted to wish all of our friends a happy easter.  The park is looking lovely with many spring bulbs and flowers at their best right now, and even though you cannot linger for long, if you take a slow stroll through the park you will see and hear nature's beauty in this little oasis.

We continue to keep a watchful eye on the park and are excited to see life exploding from every corner.  This includes our wildlife pond where we have seen the frogspawn come to life in a wriggling mass of little black tadpoles.  They are well protected in the pond vegetation so we hope that many of them will make it to adulthood. 

Take care and stay safe.

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Penge Green Gym February 2020 Newsletter

Penge Green Gym Newsletter

Waitrose Community Matters February


Once again Penge Green Gym has been chose as a recipient of the Waitrose Community matters fund during February.  You can help us by going to Waitrose in Beckenham and putting a green token (or 2) in the box behind the self service check out tills.  The money will go towards the ongoing maintenance at Winsford Gardens.  Thanks in advance for your help. 

A blustery spring in Winsford Gardens

Although not too cold with very little frost to speak of the new year has brought it's own challenges.  As you will all have experienced the wind and rain has caused significant problems in the area and Winsford Gardens is no different.  For the first time we had to abandon a gardening session due to boggy conditions.  The park is still very wet under foot so caution is advised when walking on the grass as it is very slippery.  Despite the inclement weather (and possibly because it has been so warm and wet) many of our bulbs are already out and making the gardens look very colourful.


Spring projects

We are now looking forward to the spring and have started some exciting new projects.  We have been lucky enough to get some large water containers which will be very useful for the dry months in the summer.  We are going to be covering them with green roofs and covering the sides so that the water remains fresh.

We have also started some work at our sister site in Royston Fields.  We have removed grass from the base of the new trees and filled with woodchip. We have also surveyed the area with Idverde's biodiversity officer and we hope to share some ideas for Royston Fields with the local community in the coming months.