It was a pleasure to welcome the Lord Mayor, Michael Mainelli, to the Parliament Hill Athletics Track on  April 17 to unveil a plaque and mark its official re-opening at the start of the new athletics season.

The City of London Corporation recently invested over £2m to improve this world-class sports facility. It underlines the great value we place on the Heath and its facilities, as well as the 11,000 acres of open space the City Corporation manages, including Burnham Beeches, Epping Forest, and over 180 smaller sites within the Square Mile.

It was good to be joined by young athletes from the Highgate Harriers, including those who have gone on to compete at a national level. There is a lot of enthusiasm and ability out there, and we hope that these improvements will support them and their future athletic careers.

The track has been entirely resurfaced with a state-of-the-art ‘hybrid’ sandwich system, which I gather gives it just the right amount of bounce. It is also a more sustainable option, as the top layer can be replaced in the future giving the track extra longevity.

Ham & High: William Upton KC says the new athletics track can continue to be accredited by UK AthleticsWilliam Upton KC says the new athletics track can continue to be accredited by UK Athletics (Image: City of London Corporation)

Importantly, it means the track will continue to be accredited by UK Athletics and host world-class events such as the ‘Night of the 10,000m Personal Bests’ – one of the many highlights in the Heath’s events calendar.

The next event will take place on Saturday, May 18, and all are welcome to come along and join thousands of enthusiastic fans to cheer on the runners in multiple races.

I’m sure this event, organised again by Ben Pochee and the Highgate Harriers, will continue to inspire many young athletes to follow their dreams. We may even see a few new records among the new Personal Bests, which will include the British Championships!

Earth Day is approaching (April 22) and provides an opportunity to think about our natural world – including Hampstead Heath and what our ecology and conservation teams do to protect it.

The Heath has a wealth of habitats, which provide food and shelter for a variety of wildlife, as well as providing a great open space to enjoy.

So, finally, there’s a friendly word of caution as we enter the peak of the bird nesting season. If you walk your dog on the Heath, please keep them away from areas where birds could be nesting – such as the reed beds around ponds. We want to continue to maintain their value as well.

  • William Upton KC  is chair of the City Corporation’s Hampstead Heath, Highgate Wood, and Queen’s Park Committee.