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BOB HALL: Like a comfortable pair of shoes, we treasure the Heath

PUBLISHED: 16:45 11 December 2008 | UPDATED: 15:42 07 September 2010

A really comfortable pair of shoes is something to treasure. You take care of them, look forward to wearing them, and the experience is one of easy pleasure. So it is with the Heath. It is open and available all year. It invites you into its subtly changi

A really comfortable pair of shoes is something to treasure. You take care of them, look forward to wearing them, and the experience is one of easy pleasure. So it is with the Heath. It is open and available all year. It invites you into its subtly changing mysteries. You leave restored, with pleasure in the recollection of what you have seen.

But the Heath is much more than just a place to visit. It is buzzing with change. Countless private dramas of flora and fauna are played out. The rolling of the seasons provides for hours of fascinating study. Life never stands still. Part of the programme of events that is arranged each year addresses some of these less obvious aspects of the Heath.

In 2008/2009 a total of 153 events have been organised, mainly in the middle months of the year, but some continue throughout. They cover a wide range: music, lots of it, mainly at Parliament Hill Fields and Golders Hill Park; events for children - National Insect Week activities, magic shows, teddy bears' picnics, safari days; sport - cross-country running, the Race for Life, as well as all the usual separately organised sports activities - 17 in all; guided walks - bat walks, birds of the Heath in autumn, dawn chorus walk; workshops - fungi for beginners, butterfly conservation; and general events - the John Constable walk and tour, the conker championship.

It is a big programme, mostly free, and some require pre-booking because they are so popular and places are limited.

What this illustrates is that Hampstead Heath is a large canvas, where many events are staged. The Heath has the capacity to entertain and educate. This is why one of the main policy objectives set out in the Strategic Management Plan adopted last year is "to recognize the need to be as inclusive as possible, increasing the Heath's availability to and diversity of users and to develop its potential for education and interpretation".

The Heath is in fact an amazing outdoor classroom. It provides a fabulous space for learning through a range of traditional and non-traditional subject areas and topics.

From April to November this year approximately 6,500 people have been involved through education sessions, workshops and public events. School sessions now include history focussing on the Second World War and the Victorian era. Primary schools have been involved in outdoor educational arrangements for a while, and secondary schools are now taking part. Sessions have been provided for Haverstock High School, Prince Alfred, La Sainte Union and William Ellis.

We want to hear from more schools that might wish to have education delivered outside. Any interested educational body can get in touch with the Superintendent, Simon Lee, on 020 - 7332 3322, or the Heath Education Officer, Samantha Crosby, on 020 7482 7073, to discuss ideas. Partnership and networks have been developed with Camden Youth Connexions (Camden Summer University), the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, London Wildlife Trust, Global Generation and Camden Environmental Education Network.

Public events have again included the popular bat walks. The Education Team wrote and performed the Haunted Halloween Walks to over 100 people. Two courses focussing on bush skills, about how to survive in the wild and ancestral living, were provided in partnership with London Wildlife Trust. A film was made with Triggerfish Films to show how young people use the Heath and to illustrate how important it is. And for the first time the Heath Beasts Wildlife Club went on a residential trip to Global Generation's site at Pertwood Farm in Wiltshire, which was a great success.

Next year's programme will, it is hoped, include a youth angling project, Duke of Edinburgh Awards schemes, arts opportunities and performance, bush skills, more sport and work experience.

More information can be found in the Heath Diary, which is sponsored by Capital Gardens, for which we are grateful. A copy can be obtained from local libraries, Parliament Hill Fields Staff Yard, Simon Lee's office, or information can be checked on the City of London website. Go to www@cityoflondon.gov.uk and follow the links through to Hampstead Heath.

Come along and join in. You will be very welcome.

Bob Hall is chairman of

the Hampstead Heath

Management Committee


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