‘Friends of’ Groups

‘Friends of’ groups

South West London has some amazing green spaces, ranging from local authority managed parks and recreation grounds to nature reserves, community orchards and allotments as well as sites managed by the National Trust, English Heritage, Royal Parks and Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.

Many people are surprised to learn that local authorities in the UK have no legal duty to provide or look after parks and green spaces. Community involvement is a vital way to support parks, and ‘Friends groups’ play a key role.

A friends group is a group of interested local people who come together to protect, conserve, enhance and improve their local park or green space. Friends groups can be involved in many areas, such as improving and enhancing the appearance, facilities, biodiversity and safety of parks, as well as fundraising, planning and delivering community events. 

An inclusive and diverse group, with representation from all areas of the community achieves greater credibility in the neighbourhood, helps solve problems and increases awareness.

We are commissioned by Richmond and Ealing Council to provide extensive support to environmental groups in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and Ealing. We use our expertise and experience to help groups, whether you are setting up, establishing a new project, expanding your group, seeking funding or other resources, or need help with a problem. We also have a bank of resources dedicated to helping local groups. Our ability to support groups elsewhere is limited.

We are also funded by the London Borough of Hounslow to organise a ‘Friends of Parks’ Groups Forum. You can find out more about the Forum here.

i-am-a-friendWhy start a Friends group?

  • Facilities in the park could do with improving, such as play equipment
  • To raise the quality of the whole green space
  • To meet and work with other people in your neighbourhood
  • There is an issue or concern that needs action
  • To work with the Council to improve facilities
  • To improve habitats for wildlife
  • Create benefits for all users
  • A green space or park might be threatened

What are the benefits?so-am-i-in-friends-of-groups

  • People value the green space more highly, prosocial behaviour is encouraged and there is a greater sense of ownership and investment, discouraging misuse of the site.
  • The Council will relate to and work with a group that has come together in the interest of a park, whereas a Council cannot work with individuals or groups without broad democratic representation
  • You receive support, advice and training from us including set up assistance, safety and events advice, website hosting, social media and networking
  • You can access a wide range of resources including information on funding 
  • You join a local Friends of Parks Forum and a national network of groups

What does a Friends group do?

  • Helps the community safeguard its green spacemurray-park-cake-3-in-friendss-of-groups
  • Works with the Council’s Parks Service and agrees management plans
  • Enables people to participate from a more diverse and inclusive range of backgrounds and experience
  • Meets together regularly over the year
  • Addresses issues and needs
  • Helps to plan improvements for facilities
  • Runs activities or events such as ‘work days’ for planting, conservation or guided walks, or a Summer Fair
  • Publicises the group by creating a website and running a mailing list to keep people in touch

Friends groups can carry out many tasks, functions and seize opportunities associated with the promotion and management of their space. Subgroups can be formed that focus on specific activities or needs such as an event or biodiversity. Other areas that a group can work in conjunction with Richmond Council Parks and Open Spaces are:

  • Park bench donations
  • Tree donations
  • Tree wardens

Do you have a park or green space near you that you think could be enhanced by a Friends group, or already thinking of starting one? Get in contact with us on hello@swlen.org.uk and talk to us about how we can help. 

Read our downloadable PDF Why Start a Friends Group