Keeping Richmond Special
Guest Blog by Barry May, Chairman of The Richmond Society
Don’t sweat the small stuff, sure, but do remember that little things can mean a lot. In this guest blog, Barry May, Chairman of the Richmond Society, says sometimes it’s simple things that make a difference.
In some ways, September is the beginning of the year. We’re back from our holidays, schools and colleges are starting afresh, and cultural life is reviving after the languid pleasures of the summer.
Luckily, it’s still possible to enjoy the blooms that have brought splashes of vivid colour to our town, from the shopping streets to the Green and the Riverside. Hats off to Be Richmond, backed by local businesses, for this welcome, life enhancing enterprise that serves as another reason why Richmond is special.
Once they are gone we will be reminded that autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower, as the French philosopher and author Albert Camus said.
As the yearly September song turns leaves to flame, the transition of the seasons – be it an Indian summer or an early foretaste of a harsh winter – is a reminder of more than the usual changes in our weather patterns.
In the midst of a sometimes fierce summer, Richmond Council declared a Climate Change Emergency. Its strategy and plan aim to make Richmond carbon neutral. Planting more trees is one idea. There are others. You can read more about it here and you can have your say about it here.
But back to Be Richmond’s delightful hanging baskets. They are evidence that sometimes it’s quite small, simple things that make a difference to our day-to-day enjoyment of life.
For example, next to the riverside homes created from the derelict Three Pigeons pub on Petersham Road there’s an unloved little triangle of land that’s too small to be of much use to anyone. It’s been neglected and overgrown for ages. In fact, it was an eyesore, a symbol of the fact that Council budgets just can’t stretch to everything that needs doing.
A group of local people volunteered to do something about it, rolled up their sleeves and got their hands dirty by weeding, turning the soil, digging in fertiliser and planting bulbs. The result is a patch of wildflowers that bring joy to those passing by on the towpath.
The volunteers are all members of the Richmond Society, which has been caring for Richmond for more than sixty years. It’s the local charity for people who love Richmond and want to look after its special character – those beautiful open spaces and fine buildings, charming alleyways and plentiful places to eat and drink that make Richmond so attractive to residents, workers and visitors alike.
Another initiative is the installation of two new park benches in Bridge House Gardens, the plot of land immediately upstream from Richmond Bridge. Beneath one of the bridge arches is a café. On fine days, it’s a popular spot to while away an hour or two by sitting beneath the tall trees and chatting with friends or just watching the world go by on the riverside.
Until a few years ago, there was a row of benches for people to sit, rest and admire the graceful arches of the bridge, passers-by on the towpath, and boaters messing about on the water.
Last month, the Mayor of Richmond, Nancy Baldwin, and Deputy Mayor, James Chard, inaugurated the new benches provided by the Society. The benches are inscribed and they also have QR codes that take you to a potted history of the gardens.
Besides raising funds for landscaping projects, the Richmond Society does lots of things to try to safeguard the town’s special character, like scrutinising planning applications and agitating against the proposed expansion of Heathrow Airport, for instance. If you think the noise of aircraft over Richmond is bad now, just wait until a third runway opens – if it goes ahead.
You will be very welcome. Every new member adds volume to our voice in keeping Richmond special.
Barry May is a former Reuters foreign correspondent and editor who began his career in journalism on the Richmond & Twickenham Times. He is Chairman of the Richmond Society.
The Richmond Society is a local charity for people who love Richmond and its unrivalled natural and built environment. Founded in 1957, it looks after Richmond’s beautiful open spaces and fine buildings. Beneficial change is encouraged and good design celebrated.