East End volunteers have been honoured by the Mayor of London for their efforts in transforming Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park into a thriving green sanctuary for wildlife and people.The Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park received a Community Award at City Hall last week in recognition of their stewardship of London’s third largest park.
Their activities included rebuilding and maintaining ecological habitats, protecting biodiversity, encouraging public use of the 33-acre site and mobilising a volunteer army of over 3,000 local people in the process.
Kenneth Greenway, sole member of staff at the volunteer-led charity, told EastLondonLines: “It is awesome. For us it is lovely for our volunteers to be recognised as contributing something to the community.”
Organised by a partnership of the Forestry Commission, environmental charity Groundwork London and Boris Johnson, the awards form part of Boris Johnson’s RE: Leaf campaign.
The campaign aims to both protect the city’s woodlands and expand green spaces throughout the city.
Throughout the year the Friends group have implemented woodland management projects thanks to a £5,000 grant from Groundwork London.
Alongside the day-to-day running and management, the Friends maintain the park as an educational resource, using the space to teach children from Tower Hamlets schools about urban woodlands and ecology.
Each year around 130 public walks are held to discover the flora and fauna as well as foraging explorations for finding wild food.
And at a monthly woodwork workshop, wood harvested from the parks own trees are used to make spatulas, spoons, and chairs- even decorative carved snakes have begun to appear among the wildlife recently.
For Greenway, the award is all the more special as it coincides with the 21st birthday of the establishment of the Friends group. He believes that the recognition will bolster the reputation of the park and help secure it for future generations.
He said: “Although it is a cemetery, the park is a celebration of life. There are many stories to retell – with research being done on the history of the cemetery.
“The best defence for the park is that it is used, enjoyed and protected by local people.”
The Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery are holding their annual winter wander on December 18, which is open to all members of the public.