Created by the Victorians as Britain industrialised, city parks and green spaces have ‘become living rooms’ during the pandemic
As lockdown eased, green spaces nationwide began to throng with crowds, drinking, picnicking and ordering pizza to be delivered to specific park benches. Tons of rubbish piled up and councils struggled to cope. But then there was an unexpected upside. “People started to do their own thing, cleaning up with bin bags and litter- pickers bought off eBay,” says Paul Rabbitts, head of parks at Watford borough council. Despair at the deluge of litter had galvanised people to get out and do their bit, sometimes bagging up rubbish before overwhelmed local authorities managed to get to it. “There is a sense of ownership,” says Rabbitts. “Having rediscovered parks, people are fearful of losing or spoiling them.”
Across Britain, parks have offered millions of people respite from the coronavirus crisis – a breathing space amid infection anxieties, crowded flats, home-schooling and job insecurities. With other venues closed, people turned to the nation’s 27,000 urban green spaces, from manicured landscapes to patchy neighbourhood parks and playing fields.