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Creating green spaces in urban places with Alfie Nickerson

2024-04-11

Creating green spaces in urban places
with Alfie Nickerson

By the year 2050, it’s predicted that 66% of us will live in urban areas. Our contact with natural environments could be more limited than it is now...but not if Alfie Nickerson has anything to say about it.

Alfie Nickerson

Alfie is a London-based gardener who hasn’t let his urban surroundings stop him from enjoying the great outdoors. Instead, he’s spent his career transforming local spaces into leafy green escapes for the local community to enjoy.

As an outdoor brand, the Timberland family have a special interest in urban gardening. We regularly get involved in urban greening or tree planting (9 million and counting since 2001) and couldn’t wait to sit down with Alfie to find out more about his work, and why green spaces are so important.

For Alfie, gardening all started with a lifelong love of being outside. It’s a pastime he thinks is particularly important for kids.

Alfie Nickerson: I’ve always loved being outside so at some point I decided to start gardening locally and haven't stopped. Being outdoors is great for making friends and being active, but these days not many kids have the opportunity.

Putting kids in touch with nature

In an ideal world, all children would have access to green spaces, but that isn’t always the reality. Studies have shown that kids from greener neighborhoods have a physical and mental advantage over those raised in built-up urban areas. Those studies also showed that regular access to natural landscapes improves working memory, classroom engagement and social skills. And this is before you get to the physical benefits of running around outside in the fresh air! Dozens of studies support it, but no one knows the true reason why.

Timberland x Alfie Nickerson

When the outdoors can have such a lasting and positive effect on human development, it makes sense to invest time in creating more of them. Timberland’s My PlayGreen scheme was started with the aim of introducing more urban green spaces into large European cities. Like Alfie, our goal is to encourage young people to take advantage of outdoor spaces by investing time into making them accessible and enjoyable to be in.

Alfie Nickerson: My perfect urban garden would be tranquil and relaxing, with water and lots of seating areas, and maybe sculptures and art pieces to rest your eyes on. There is more to life than being wealthy - looking after everything around you benefits one in a much deeper and fulfilling way.

DIY urban greening

Sustainability is important to Alfie and he’s keen to point out that recycling, reusing and upcycling are key for urban gardening. Unused wooden pallets and plastic milk crates can be turned into a balcony-friendly or wall-mounted gardens. Car tyres can be repurposed into mounted or hanging flower planters and large reusable shopping bags can be filled with deep soil and used to grow root veggies. You can even bring a little greenery to your windowsill by planting flowers inside old teacups, muffin baking trays and tin cans. The more creative, the better!

Timberland x Alfie Nickerson

Entire neighbourhoods can be given a green lease of life with a few extra trees. You can set up community greening projects by contacting local councils or by getting involved in volunteer projects like Timberland’s My PlayGreen, which you can find across Europe in London, Milan, Berlin, Paris and Barcelona.

Greening urban spaces to bring communities together

Sustainability is also a great way to bring communities together. In France, the long-abandoned La Coulée Verte René-Dumont elevated railway has been transformed into an urban garden for local communities. In Stockholm, a five-floor hospital car park has been converted into a lush green butterfly sanctuary (Fjärilstak och nektarrestaurang). Urban beekeeping has become popular in recent years, and DIY rooftop beehives are common in a lot of European cities.

There’s plenty to love when it comes to urban greening and gardening projects. For Alfie, the simple enjoyment of being outside is what keeps him going.

Alfie Nickerson: I find the way nature works truly magical and being outdoors and watching all the seasons go by in their incredible variety is what I love most about my work. I want to start a biodynamic farm in Norfolk and bring vegetables to London to sell. But for me, it’s not all about the career but enjoying the simple things in life.

Biodynamic farming and urban lifestyles

Biodynamic farming is something Alfie is particularly passionate about. Based on the ideas of Australian philosopher, Rudolf Steiner, biodynamic farmers plant and harvest their crops according to the lunar calendar and even use homoeopathic methods to keep the soil rich in nutrients. It’s ethical, organic, ecological and is gaining popularity every day. Several big whole food chains already stock biodynamic products (especially biodynamic wine!), so London is more than ready to snap up Alfie’s veggies in the future.

Timberland x Alfie Nickerson

The benefits of being outside in green spaces are undeniable. The natural world makes us feel better, sharpens our brains and helps the planet—there’s plenty to love. Getting involved is easy, too. From small planters on a windowsill or balcony to volunteering in urban greening projects and creating brand new spaces for the community. If it’s green, it’s all good.