Social surveys for recreational use of public open space and parks

The orange sign reads: Danger. Do not go into the water. Do not allow dogs into the water. Parks Police 020 8871 7532

Park managers use very sophisticated social survey techniques to find out what people want to do in parks. I have noticed this in many countries: they discover what people want to do and then they ban the activity.
Or should we view these photographs of Battersea Park on a hot day as evidence of:
– sinful people damaging the innocent water by bathing in it?
– gross negligence by the sinister Parks Police?
In the good old days there were no Parks Police – there were Park Keepers with responsibility for both gardening and public order.
London’s Victoria Park still has a Bathing Pond but its use for bathing is no longer permitted. You can, however, swim in The Serpentine in London’s Hyde Park – demonstrating that neither health nor safety is the reason for prohibiting bathing in most of London’s public parks. The underlying problem is that parks managers are not responsible to park users: they see themselves as owner-managers, as masters and not as servants of the public.

Illegal water fun in Battersea Park

It is hard to know whether this couple is breaking the law

16 thoughts on “Social surveys for recreational use of public open space and parks

  1. Jerry

    I agree with you that the Park managers see themselves as the owner managers,and they are bossy.
    I cannot bear it when they shout to me in order to stop me doing something in the park. Especially, when female administrators shout at me, I hate them more.

  2. Jerry

    Yes, I think one big function of garden and park is to provide happiness and pleasant feelings for people. I also think of all the components of a city’s infrastructure, landscape is like ‘female’ and the constructions are like male. When the visitors enjoy themselves in the parks, which is a little bit like they are in the feminine world. Maybe, I could bear females shouting at me in other places, but not at all in the parks or gardens.
    ALso, I think a lady should be kind, tender and warm, because which should be their natural instincts.

  3. Tom Turner Post author

    Thank you for a very intersting comment. I guess the male/female contrast here is parallel to the yang/yin contrast in Chinese philosophy.
    I never enjoy it much when people shout at me and will take care to see if (1) it is worse when the person shouting is female (2) the experience is even worse if it happens in a park or garden. The problem is that people do not shout at me very often so (1) I will have to think of ways of encouraging them (2) for statistical accuracy, I will have to ensure that the number of female shouters is the same as the number of male shouters.
    Recently I thought I was going to be shouted at by a male and a female at the same time when I took the above photograph of what looked very like a couple having sex in the middle of Greenwich Park. Perhaps I could have calmed them down by explaining that I wanted an illustration to show how ying and yang can come together in a park!

  4. Adam Hodge

    I wonder if the Parks Management are merely responding to the PC culture we have clothed ourselves with, or a culture where we don’t take personal responsibility. I encourage my dog to swim with me and if younger would be the first in the fountains, but you can bet your bippo someone will moan to whoever that it is a health risk, or a saflety risk..slipping or whatever. We as a society need to leverage change and get disclaimers put up ”.swim ,play whatever at your peril..something might happen that could inconvenience you…the risk is yours ”.

    And as for the couple on the grass, m’thinks its just a summer snog. Good for them !

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      Or even s simple sign reading ‘water not safe for safe’ to absolve the owners of responsibility. The managers of Greenwich Park have started putting up signs saying ‘No Barbecues’. But the managers of the Meadows in Edinburgh have put a map of areas wheer barbecues are permitted.
      Re the couple on the grass, I respect Adam’s zoological and anthropological judgement but think that video evidence might lead to a re-assessment. It would have shown (1) some characteristic pelvic movements (2) a marked over-reaction to the prospect of being photographed.

  5. Adam Hodge

    Tom ..your second paragraph addds greater information re ‘the couple’ and the extent of their affections.
    What does the law say about pelvic movements in a Park? Would this include all forms of exercise of a repetitious rythmic nature one wonders ? If the couple are in such a public place they should expect to be’s no difference to a well exposed cleavage..would be rude not to notice and admire !

  6. Lawrence

    Anyone who intends to work as a landscape architect in the commercial market had better get used to being shouted at. The older you get the more it happens, although the upside of age and experience is that you can shout back, and even get to shout at other people too sometimes. Definitely better to get shouted at by men, it often clears the air, whereas with women it tends usually to complicate the issue at hand. Shouting at women is always a mistake, and one always has to apologise afterwards, even if one was right.

    I think that if I was having discreet sex in a public place I would be very irritated to have someone taking photographs of me. I would always let my partner do the shouting in this circumstance, women are very much better at the kind of low abuse that both wounds and humiliates the male recipient, while making everyone else laugh out loud.

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      Lawrence, I am sorry to hear about the inevitability of shouting and wonder if I have been wrong in not shouting at students: perhaps it leaves them un-prepared for professional experience.
      Christine, I 100% agree that signs should explain risks but wonder if the courts would agree. I can imagine a barrister arguing, after someone had been injured, that ‘if you knew of the risks involved, why didn’t you put up a sign stating that entering the water was forbidden’. And with regard to the hateful reference to Parks Police, if the sign merely said ‘Do not enter the water’ , could they argue that this information without effective enforcement constituted negligence by the park managers?

  7. Christine

    I remember designing an elaborate scheme (of reeds and boardwalks)to keep people from swimming in a cooling lake from a recreational beach. And yes it was for health reasons: water fleas [ ] and blue green algae [ ].

    So perhaps it might be more efficient to specify the danger to people’s safety on the sign [ ] and the consequences for ignoring it [ ] if you can’t design out access to the water.

  8. Lawrence

    Tom, I think most students are unprepared for professional experience, so you should not worry too much about adding shouting to the curriculum. And anyway, as I remember from the crits in Dartford there was often more than enough tears and bitter despair flowing afterwards to offer an accurate picture of things to come in the real world. Judging from the CVs I see, the amount of design work in the UK is becoming insufficient to round students off, and I wonder what will happen to those of this generation who don’t make the jump to work-rich regions. You should certainly school them to ignore all the “Keep off the Grass” notices that they might come across, and to indulge in public displays of affection as the mood takes them.

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      I think much of the UK is over-developed and am now rather pleased when I hear that UK econcomic growth is slowing. They need to pause and think and work out ways of (1) improving the quality of the urban environment (2) letting the rural environment change without being wrecked. In fact I rather envy Japan and East Germany for their declining populations. You can put it down to old age if you wish but I have a youthfull zest for keeping on the grass and cycling through parks, pedestrian areas, one way streets in the wrong direction etc etc. My hope is to follow in the tyre-prints of this young man’s cycle tour of Scotland
      With regard to the general state of UK landscape architecture, Sir Colin Stansfield Smith is quoted in the Summer 2011 issue of Landscape that the day of the architect was over and that the day of the landscape architect is today. He is wrong, of course, but the scope of landscape architecture continues to widen.

  9. Adam Hodge

    There is an amusing contradiction in Lawrence’s remark.”..having discreet sex in a public place. It seems as though the level of discretion was woefully inadequate..they were noticed !

  10. Carla

    Here in Sarasota, Florida, they go nuts over the parks. Homeless aren’t welcome they pulled out the benches and more. I had to laugh at the photo of the couple, because if that was Sarasota, there would be a town meeting on how to ban public kissing.

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      It is strange that Americans often view Britain as a place of stuffy old reactionary conservatives and the British often view the Americans as a more-modern society. The truth is that American politics are much more conservative (I am not implying any value-judgements in making this comment).


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