Featured image of post Balancing needs of nature and people in a cemetery park
Episode 50

Balancing needs of nature and people in a cemetery park

Interview with Kenneth Greenway about balancing the needs of people and nature in a historic cemetery park.

The park continues to look after the graves on the site, which includes several listed monuments. The site is managed to be a mosaic of habitats, with an emphasis of keeping a feeling of openness. Community groups have contributed to spring bulb planting across the site.

Managing ‘anti-social behaviour’

  • Created open feeling by thinning trees and removing ivy from some trees
  • Allowed 24 hour access to the site via pedestrian gates (also stopped damage to fencing from forced entry)
  • Staff informally greet and speak with all visitors to the site so their presence is felt
  • Relationships built up with regular visitors who report anti-social behaviour or illicit commercial foragers
  • Anti-social behaviours are dealt with initially by respectful reminders that it is a public space
  • Frequent interruption b friendly chats seems to prevent anti-social behaviour because people know they will be interrupted

Managing picking of plants and flowers

  • Borough has bylaws against picking any plants from council property
  • Tower Hamlets offers the least green space per capita of any similar area in Europe, staff respond to this situation by allowing reasonable use of the site by the community
  • Foraging for personal use is generally allowed
  • Lockdown led to a huge increase in foraging on the site and staff now request that people let them know first.
  • Children won’t be yelled at for picking a flower here or there, but anyone picking bunches of flowers will be spoken to about it being a communal space so the flowers should be left for the community to enjoy.


  • Reconnects people into the seasons so they can plan ahead

  • Personal use value of the site for foraging is a way for people to develop appreciation for the site

  • Hopefully people eventually develop a desire to learn more about plants outside of foraging

  • Foraging walks

    • Much more take-up for foraging than general botany walks
    • Emphasise responsible foraging behaviour so that it is sustainable
    • Emphasise that foraging requires dedication to learn about the plants and how to ID them
  • Useful books


  • Using the site at night seems to be a draw

  • People book online to limit numbers

  • People seem to enjoy the evening regardless of seeing any bats

  • Walk logistics

    • Begin by learning about bat ecology, break down preconceptions and myths
    • Get to see a dead bat and handle bat poo
    • Learn how to use bat detectors before setting out
    • Slowly move around the site
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