I am a latecomer to the training group, having only joining it in September of last year after seeing them training as I walked past with a friend. I loved the idea of outdoor activity rather than the steamy macho environment of a gym and I have enjoyed every moment of it. I was worried that the weather might put me off, but somehow we have led a charmed existence and every Thursday morning has been fine and reasonably clement. Until the last couple of weeks, when for the first time we have had to train in rain. Not a bad record overall. And even the rain hasn’t put me off.
It’s not all exercise. We do also manage to fit in a fair amount of chat, which has been a good source of local gossip. As we jog round, we see friends and acquaintances too, which adds to the sense of community that West Hampstead offers. The dog walkers all seem to know each other and some wave cheerily to us as we pass. There are groups of parents (even as early as 8.30 am) in the little playground, pushing toddlers on the swings. I have spent many hours myself doing just that when my children were young and more recently with visiting children.
Nowadays the playground is well equipped, although only really suitable for the under-6s. Back in the 80s, it was a less attractive space but there was more for older children. It’s probably a lot safer now: back then, the older kids could rather dominate, and you lived in terror that a toddler would run in front of the swings and be knocked for six. It would be nice if there was space for both age groups though: I have spent a lot of time with a bored 9-year-old watching his younger sister having lots of fun while he thought it all much too tame. In the 90s, the adventure playground was open to everyone and even the grown-ups enjoyed going there with their children, but today it is only available to the play-scheme children.
The Green itself has always been a godsend for West Hampstead parents – providing the only open space in the area where children can run around. Gardens tend to be small and most children have too much energy. The Green’s dog-free area allows for more boisterous activities as well as picnics – when the footballers aren’t around. When I was a flat-dweller in my 20s, it was also the only place to go to sunbathe, with the added benefit of the pub nearby for refreshments. The Sager building and Tesco’s doesn’t quite offer the same experience and inevitably lead to people littering the Green with their empty cans and bottles. One morning recently, I found an unopened bottle of lager next to one of the benches. Shame I’m not a beer drinker.
This week, as we fast walked past the flowerbeds, I noticed that the geraniums are already in flower. Pretty pink flowers appearing everywhere, unlike in my own garden where they haven’t yet bloomed. This spring has been quite spectacular for blossom on all the trees and bushes: even though we have all hated the wet winter weather, plants have loved it and have put on their finest displays. It is wonderful to see all the new planting beginning to fill out the beds and I love the variety and combinations that have been chosen. They are beginning to blend together beautifully.
Fortune Green is very much at the heart of our community at every stage of our lives and I am grateful to the Friends group whose efforts have made it so much more enjoyable to visit. It has never looked better than it does today and this is thanks to their hard work and commitment. Long may it continue.
-Jane May (Guest Blogger)