Heath Hands looks after Hampstead Heath to look after its community
- Credit: Heath Hands
For 21 of the 150 years since Hampstead Heath was preserved by law, charity Heath Hands has had a symbiotic relationship with our favourite green space.
The charity, founded by Bobby de Joia, has had helping nurture the Heath as its raison d'être - but also helping the Heath nurture its community in return.
Volunteers litter-pick, look after wildlife and help the City of London Corporation manage the Heath.
In recent years, it has focussed on making sure that as many local people as possible enjoy the gem we have on our doorstep - and this has included hiring young people as trainee rangers to help foster a love of the outdoors.
One of the current trainees is Edozie Oduah, 22. He lives in Belsize Park, but told this newspaper he'd never really engaged with the Heath properly until recently.
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He said: "In the first lockdown I wasn't much of a nature person really, so over the last year I wanted to get outside more and learn about what is here.
"I've most enjoyed working with the people here. They're caring and very much up for a laugh. I've been on so many bird walks, and really enjoyed paying attention to what's around me!"
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Keir Chauhan, 19, spent time volunteering with Heath Hands before he became a trainee ranger in 2020. The former Alexandra Park School pupil is now a youth rep for the British Trust for Ornithology.
He told the Ham&High: "I got involved with Heath Hands in around the summer of 2018. I found it really helpful after my GCSEs.
"As I had been getting older, one of the things I'd always wanted to do more of was wildlife monitoring!"
He said he had been involved in hedgehog monitoring in Golders Hill Park, and even helped keep an eye on the Heath's snakes.
"I had always been into nature," he said. "But, before, I felt a little bit removed from UK nature."
Cindy Galvin, chair of the charity's trustees, added: "It's always been about engaging volunteers with nature and with helping to maintain the Heath. It's a wonderful space.
"As we have grown we have over the years been able to do new things too. We are really so fortunate to have the Heath here."
Heath Hands' community festival forms part of the 150th anniversary celebrations on June 27. Head to the Parliament Hill bandstand from 1pm to 5pm.