Covid Response: Outdoor spaces

Supporting our outdoor learning spaces during the pandemic

The coronavirus lockdowns have made us appreciate just how important outdoor space is to our wellbeing – especially for people living in an area as built up as London.

One of the most iconic and important spaces in our city is ZSL London Zoo. Open since 1828, it’s the world’s oldest scientific zoo and home to almost 20,000 animals. But in March this year, the coronavirus threated to shut down the zoo for good.

Restrictions meant the zoo had to close to visitors, cutting off its primary source of funding – entrance fees.

We stepped in with a grant to cover more than two months of food and bedding for the animals.

Fortunately, the zoo reopened in June 2020 after three months but is still facing challenges due to restricted visitor numbers.

  • According to Friends of the Earth, 1,257 neighbourhoods in the UK – home to 10.9 million people – are deprived of green space. That’s roughly 1 in 5 of us.
  • ZSL London Zoo cares for 19,035 animals from 592 different species. We gave a grant to help take care of them during the pandemic.
  • Our grant to Hammersmith Community Gardens meant 30 volunteering sessions and 10 gardening workshops could help improve people’s wellbeing.

Maintaining gardens to benefit local communities

Community gardens offer people a place to relax, engage with nature, meet others and get active outdoors. As part of our COVID grants programme, we supported Hammersmith Community Gardens Association, which operates in some of the areas of London that are most deprived of green space. The Association manages two community gardens in Shepherds Bush, a glasshouse in Ravenscourt Park, and the Phoenix Farm in White City.

Their volunteer programme helps people of all ages and abilities get the benefits of being outdoors, while they help to maintain the green space for others. The Association works with local schools, providing a range of gardening and environmental activities and a play scheme for children and their carers in the holidays.

Changing restrictions and guidelines during lockdown meant that the Association had to quickly find funding to make the necessary changes.

We gave a grant, through the London Community Response Fund, for the Association to adapt the way they work to maintain their gardens. They worked with existing volunteers and opened up the programme to new volunteers so they could benefit too. The grant paid for 30 volunteering sessions and 10 gardening workshops, as well as providing capacity for business planning so the organisation can build a strategy for the future.

“The Hammersmith Community Gardens Association is managing four vibrant green spaces in areas of London that needs them. We know there’s a difficult winter ahead but look forward to seeing the gardens in bloom again in spring.”

Connor Friesen, Grants Manager, Kusuma Trust

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