'I am aware that not everyone is able to easily visit the Heath'
Anne Fairweather, chair, Hampstead Heath management committee
- Credit: André Langlois
I have been lucky enough to have been a regular visitor to the Heath throughout my life. As a child my Great Aunt lived nearby so when we visited her, we often took trip to the Heath to climb trees, enjoy the views or go swimming in the Ponds. Now in my position as chair of the Management Committee I am fortunate to have regular visits to look at the varied conservation and management work which happens on the Heath.
There is no doubt that visiting the Heath has so many benefits – both physically and emotionally but I am aware, that not everyone is able to easily visit. They may have accessibility issues or lack the confidence to visit.
They may be unaware of what the Heath has to offer despite living in the local community.
Heath Hands – the Heath’s volunteering charity – has been carrying out some excellent work with their Community Heath project since 2017. They have worked with community groups and charities to give around 3,000 underrepresented people the opportunity to visit.
They aim to offer supported visits and activities to help build confidence and increase awareness of all the activities that take place on the Heath and pathways in to volunteering. You can find out more here: heath-hands.org.uk/inclusion-access.
Our newly appointed Sports and Wellbeing Forum - made up of Heath staff, representatives from sports groups and other community partners - is also committed to helping people, and groups, who need some extra support, to be able to visit. Already, there have been some organised mental health swims at the Lido and at the Mixed Pond, forest bathing and mindfulness sessions.
Conversations are taking place between health care providers, the Heath team and the three local councils that border the Heath around social prescribing which aims to help vulnerable and ill people who will benefit from the enrichment that the Heath can bring. The Heath Team are also working with the NHS in a programme to encourage key workers to try open water swimming.
I’m also pleased to announce that Stefania Horne has been appointed as the new Superintendent of Hampstead Heath. Stephania is currently head of Parks and Leisure at the London Borough of Hounslow and will take up her position on the Heath in January.
Anne Fairweather is chair of City Of London Corporation’s Hampstead Heath Management Committee