Abney Park Cemetery
Life is rife in Abney Park Cemetery in Hackney, north east London. Ivy-clad Victorian monuments nestle in 32 acres of mature woodland, wildflowers, wildlife.
This green oasis is largely down to a local campaign to save the cemetery from vandalism and neglect, which began in the 1980s. The park has since been designated an architectural conservation area and Hackneys first local nature reserve.
A green space for local people
The London Borough of Hackney owns the site, but it is managed by Abney Park Cemetery Trust. The Trust, made up of local people, was formed in 1991, and granted a lease on the site in 1992.
The Trust aims to maintain the sites unique value, develop opportunities for the local community and bring more people to the park. Students carried out research into peoples needs and how they felt about the parkland.
In response to their suggestions, the Trust opened a visitors information centre and runs childrens activities, guided walks, and a wide range of educational activities about history and wildlife.
A free schools educational programme, supported by a full-time education officer, encourages local primary and secondary schools to use the natural woodland environment as an outdoor classroom. The park and its resources are ideal for studying subjects including science, geography and history. For example, rocks found in Abney Park monuments are studied in a childrens workshop called ?250The story of the rock ?261 the bones of the earth?306. Children can also discover sustainability and biodiversity through learning the role of ?250little rotters?306 in the cycle of matter and energy.
Partners, volunteers and funds
The Trust has established links with local groups on environmental issues, and has worked with housing estates, schools, and groups for the elderly and youth.
Since it received funding from the National Lottery in 1998, the project has expanded, with the community becoming increasingly involved in the management, use and maintenance of the park.
To help address the boroughs high unemployment, the Trust offers valuable work experience and learning skills for the unemployed and young people and children excluded from mainstream education. Regular volunteers can gain a NVQ in Environmental Conservation. Volunteers use timber from the woodland to construct pathways, and compost generated on site for gardening. The Trust also recruits volunteers to give guided walks.
A tree sponsorship project has raised funds to help with re-planting an extensive arboretum with trees relevant to different cultures. This is reminiscent of the park in 1840, when it had the largest collection of trees and shrubs in Europe. However, the idea is not only about recreating its history, but about updating Hackneys park for the 21st. Century.
Planning for the future
The trustees have learnt the importance of sharing information and skills and being well organised in promoting the project. They aim to continue to reach out to the entire local community, and are currently targeting teenagers and women with woodworks projects.
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