"Living Landscapes" starts with a positive vision for our suburban borough: it will be a place of abundant nature, rich in biological diversity, and consequently rich in human experience. We want to make our open spaces inviting sanctuaries for native wild plants and fungi, insects and other animals, as well as meeting human needs for foods and fibres, safeguarding our climate, water and soils, and lifting and nourishing our spirits. As an act of love for future generations, we want to leave Kingston and surrounding regions richer, in the most important dimensions of natural wealth, than it was when we inherited it, so as to help them negotiate the challenges of energy scarcity and climate change.

The actions of the project will be determined by those who take part – we will follow an adaptive model, and all are welcome. We will be guided by several principles:

  • to uphold and improve the beauty, resilience and ecological integrity of our landscape;
  • to understand, cherish and safeguard our most vulnerable, irreplaceable natural ecosystems and species;
  • to restore the abundance and integrity of nature in areas where it has been degraded, paying due attention to the geographic origins (provenance) and potential threats of introducing seeds and other materials from outside;
  • to empower our fellow humans in making this deep connection with nature;
  • to gradually improve the capacity of the land to provide for the needs for human flourishing.

The focus of our activities will vary from situation to situation. We will seek the guidance of expert conservationists and ecologists; where they recommend protecting important species or ecosystems, we will seek to understand the conservation needs and ensure they are met. Where there is currently no recognised conservation interest, we will be more adventurous in championing ecological restoration. Resources and principles we will follow include those from Flora Locale.

An element of achieving our vision is the creation of meadows that can conserve healthy populations of the flora and fauna that has been associated with the southern England landscape over recent centuries. A meadow is an area of closed herbaceous vegetation dominated by grasses - by some definitions, it refers specifically to vegetation managed to produce hay rather than grazed as pasture. Meadows are examples of "semi-natural" ecosystems – they were not prevalent in the region’s prehistoric landscape, which was primarily wooded, and in our region they need ongoing management to prevent succession to woodland. An "urban meadow,", as defined by River of Flowers, takes as a starting point the fact that urban habitats are largely artificial, so that there is no need or option to recreate past plant communities, though the new communities should consist of native species. As species’ ranges continue to change with the climate, this is a pragmatic approach to ensure habitat continuity for pollinating insects and other wildlife, though the impacts on vulnerable, more established communities must always be considered. Urban meadows will require ongoing management, but this is likely to be at lower cost, and far higher gain, than conventional urban lawns or bedding plants, which tend to be ecological deserts. Where we promote and create urban meadows (in public or private places) we will seek to ensure the connectivity of habitats that will allow native species to adapt and survive in a changing environment.

We anticipate some discussions and even disagreements over the appearance of our natural environment – all opinions will be listened  to and respected. Ultimately, we anticipate our fellow residents will place the long-term needs of people and nature over short-term expectations and conventions. We will seek to develop and share the understanding that enables us to act in the wider interest of our community and our natural world.

We hope to build up a panel of experts and welcome your involvement and views.