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Heath Hands celebrate 20 years of 'giving back' in Hampstead

PUBLISHED: 16:18 24 April 2019 | UPDATED: 16:18 24 April 2019

Heath Hands and the City of London's Heath Committee celebrate anniversaries by planting a commemorative tree in Whitestone Park. Picture: Heath Hands

Heath Hands and the City of London's Heath Committee celebrate anniversaries by planting a commemorative tree in Whitestone Park. Picture: Heath Hands

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Twenty years ago Hampstead Heath charity Heath Hands was but the germ of an idea in the head of founder - and Ham&High columnist - Bobby de Joia.

Heath Hands and the City of London's Heath Committee celebrate anniversaries by planting a commemorative tree in Whitestone Park. Picture: Heath HandsHeath Hands and the City of London's Heath Committee celebrate anniversaries by planting a commemorative tree in Whitestone Park. Picture: Heath Hands

After two decades of hard work, the charity marked its birthday last week in a small tree planting ceremony.

This marks the beginning of a celebratory year for the team, who are based at the Kenwood House Dairy.

Projects and volunteer manager Colin Houston told this newspaper: “As you know, it's the 30th anniversary of the City of London managing the Heath and it just so happened to be the 20th anniversary of Heath Hands.

“It's been 20 years of helping to keep the Heath beautiful and conserving it.”

Heath Hands and the City of London's Heath Committee celebrate anniversaries by planting a commemorative tree in Whitestone Park. Picture: Heath HandsHeath Hands and the City of London's Heath Committee celebrate anniversaries by planting a commemorative tree in Whitestone Park. Picture: Heath Hands

Planting a tree, Colin explained, seemed an apt way of marking both birthdays. The chairs of the two organisations – Cindy Galvin of Heath Hands and Karina Dostalova from the City of London's Hampstead Heath committee – both got stuck in and helped dig a hole for the tree.

Colin added: “It was just a cold Monday morning. The big party will come later in the year and that'll be quite a big affair.

“We thought Whitestone Garden, a memorial to Bobby, was a great place for the two chairs to come together.”

Looking back at the work of Heath Hands, Colin drew attention to the community ethos of the charity.

He said: “It's important to recognise that so many of the people who volunteer are – and have been – local people from Hampstead and around Camden.

“We've got over 200 volunteers and we've been growing over the past few years.

“At the same time we've been moving in a slightly different direction – focusing more on community outreach and getting diverse groups into the green space, to take advantage of the therapeutic nature of it!”

An example of Heath Hands' attempts to persuade more Londoners to head for the Heath is the Community Heath Festival held for the first time last summer.

It's back this year in June.

Colin explained: “It's going to be building on the success of last year, and again really community-themed.”

After two decades, though, Colin's at pains to emphasise that Heath Hands is working “literally every day” for the good of the Heath.

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