Green Flag judging month – a busy but rewarding time in the parks

Doorstep Greens on film Dull work-related stuff alert about the Civic Trust’s Green Flag and Green Pennant award scheme. As the national standard for measuring the quality of our parks and green spaces, my colleagues and I are making every effort to encourage Doorstep Greens to go for an award once they’re up and running.

I’m one of the Green Flag and Green Pennant scheme’s judges – there are more than 400 of us – I’ve had a busy month. I’m judging three sites this year fairly near to where I live and it takes quite a bit of reading up (100 page management plans are hard going but a necessity for large, Victorian public parks).

An element of the award is purely judging the quality of the management documents – a desk assessment of all the background information. It gives a great insight into the amount of work going into our parks and green spaces behind the scenes.

It’s what happens on the site visit – the judgement day – which really makes it all worthwhile though. No amount of paperwork can prepare you for the great buzz you get when you visit the space and meet the local people who use it. It’s a very important tradition for Green Flag judges to meet members of the local community – “Friends of” groups, etc., when judging a site. From the people who use it, you get the ‘warts and all’ version of the park’s value. For these moments, you can forget the management plan – its maintenance schedules, health and safety audits and peat-free statements – when you meet the people, the park comes to life.

It’s the same for all the Doorstep Greens I’ve visited with work. You just don’t want to know the extent of the number-crunching, analysis, planning, writing and emailing that goes into keeping Doorstep Greens going and making sure that they survive into the future. Like the Park Management Plans I read for Green Flag applications – it’s a necessity – but the spaces and the people who bring them to life beat the paperwork hands-down.