This second post unpacks some of Rebeka Clark’s presentation at InspiralLondon Festival in September 2016. Rebecca is the site manager of Stave Hill Ecological Park in Rotherhithe, London, where the Friday events for the festival took place. The park has been in existence for just over 30 years and was built in this former dockland area of South London, on what was Stave Dock. I have written briefly on Stave Hill before.
Rebeka described how the park has been about re-landscaping, that it is a made landscape, elements created have included a chalk bank and a chalk stream. The whole project has been made possible by volunteers, local people who’ve made the ecological park what it is – meaning children can come and make dens and catch stickle-backs in a jar in the middle of London. I was very interested her description of the area having had human settlement for over 2000 years, how before the docks, the area had cherry orchards and market gardens. The project has created hop gardens, to reflect the experience of local people travelling to Kent to pick hops, which is still in living memory and went on for generations. She described the importance of connecting people to the landscape, to place.
This made me reflect on the concept of CPUL (continuous productive urban landscape – Bohn and Viljoen), which I first introduced to by Chiara Tornaghi, research lead on the Urban Food Justice project (University of Leeds) in 2011-2013.
‘Continuous Productive Urban Landscape (CPUL) is a design concept advocating the coherent introduction of interlinked productive landscapes into cities as an essential element of sustainable urban infrastructure. Central to the CPUL concept is the creation of multi-functional open urban space networks, including urban agriculture, that complement and support the built environment’.
This approach where networks of green spaces of all sorts (parks, brownfield, verges, allotments) are all valued as food growing spaces and wildlife habitats is significant in seeking to achieve resilient and prosperous, sustainable communities in cities and towns. A CPULs approach could see much more locally produced healthy food grown in urban areas in the UK (see Steady State Manchester, for a recent Café Conversation on this topic).
Stave Hill Ecological Park, InspiralLondon Festival
Rebeka also described the project’s ongoing efforts to increase biodiversity in Stave Hill Ecological Park. They have increased plant species from 40 to hundreds in 30 years, and have new knowledge about how to do this. And now have 100 species of micro-moth in their meadows. However, the park is in danger of being ‘loved to death’ by local people, through the constant walking over it (compacting the soil and accidental killing of insect species for example) – so reluctantly some areas have recently been fenced off to protect them. With the wider area being a key site for ongoing housing development, there are plans for a massive 70% increase in population, with high density tower blocks planned. Interestingly the park is being seen as a valued selling point for new development, recognising the importance of green space for wellbeing. However, this obviously creates a strong tension where many more people will want to use the park.
 http://arts.brighton.ac.uk/research/sustainability-network/cpul – Accessed 28.3.17
Image credits: Sarah Spanton