Every weekend I go to my local park. I walk through the woods, round the lakes and have a coffee at the cafe. Roundhay Park is a place I’ve visited for nearly 50 years. Nearly!
It has great landscapes and sometimes it has different moods. I know a fair bit about the history as I was lucky enough to do the design work for a book entitled ‘An illustrated history of Roundhay Park’. It’s still available in the Roundhay Mansion gift shop. You can also make a virtual visit to the park via the Friends of Roundhay park website.
There are many different groups who use the park. On Saturday mornings there is Leeds Park run, a volunteer organised 5k run. There are dog training groups and other fitness sessions. A rowing club uses the lake, as does a canoe water polo basketball sport mashup all sharing the lake with people fishing. So all sorts going on.
Most days there are a variety of birds on the lakes; moor hens, coots, grebes, gulls, ducks and cormorants recently too. And obviously swans. Like ducks and gulls, it’s easy to dismiss all swans as the same. They look the same; they swim the same; they fly the same.
But I saw something recently on TV about a study started in 1964 by Sir Peter Scott which suggested swans have unique patterns on their bills.
(Photo credit to the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust)
Swans fascinate me in how they interact, or don’t, with each other and with the people using the park.
But unless we really take time to look or find out, we wouldn’t know swans can be individually identified or perhaps even have different personalities. That probably applies to people too; and like parks, we are probably all happy in our familiar spaces.
Unless we see things as important enough, we might not go find out new things, visit new places or meet new people that might change our view on life or improve our or others wellbeing.
There appears to be movement towards encouraging people to do more for themselves and others with volunteering and self development opportunities being seen as a way to help improve where we live.
NHS change day 2014 had a pledge based on the Nesta Randomised Coffee trials. It is Leeds connected coffee pledge, where you take 30 minutes and invite someone you don’t properly know to meet and find out what you both do. It was all aimed at connecting people in Leeds in a more sociable way but the idea could be for anywhere. It could work within organisations and businesses too.
Whilst a great idea, it’s probably something that should happen all year round. And why just limit it to work? Things like this and volunteering can make a huge difference. Just look at what goes on in your local park and through groups like the Friends of Roundhay Park.
It’s suggested in this link that three quarters of the population described themselves as having volunteered in the past year. I like that they call it people helping people and nothing more convoluted. The volunteering I’ve done, whilst it contributed to good causes and helping people, also benefitted me in later life. It has given me a much wider network of friends and interests than if I’d not made the effort. It’s made me more effective at work too.
I’d like to suggest people go to their local park and see what really goes on or even a different park once in a while and see what you can get involved with. You never know what opportunities it might bring.
Being sociable might just be worth it.