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Opinion piece: A week in the life of… a Landscape Activation Manager

Jack Gower

Find out how Jack helps connect people in Thamesmead with nature.

Published: 21/02/2024

The original article was published on Inside Housing

Jack Gower, Landscape Activation Manager for Thamesmead, splits his time between Thamesmead’s parks, canals and lakes and working from home. 


I start the week at my desk, responding to urgent emails that came in over the weekend, before finalising the paperwork to grant a licence for a community interest company (CIC) called Thamesmead Growers. Set up by a Peabody resident, they’ll be looking after the Titmuss Avenue Community Garden. With their new licence, the CIC will co-ordinate volunteer gardeners to grow food and flowers and enjoy the space.

I then set off to Windrush Primary School in Thamesmead, where I also volunteer as a governor. We support schools through various funding programmes, and I particularly focus on making their access to parks and nature reserves – where children can learn about nature – straightforward for teachers.

Today I’m meeting the school student council and deputy head to discuss littering near the school gate. During a walk outside, I introduce them to Peabody’s street-cleaning team and agreed a location for a new bin to be installed. I always feel meetings like this are worth making time for – being open and honest about the challenges we face locally and empowering young people to make a positive impact where they live and learn.


Today I’m reviewing the next season of the fortnightly Thamesmead volunteering programme. I checked the proposed work for the volunteers will make a difference to biodiversity in Thamesmead, in line with our Biodiversity Action Plan, which it does. At Peabody, I oversee a regular volunteering programme across the town to give local people the opportunity to play an active role in looking after the natural landscape and wildlife.

Later, I’ll be heading to a weekly catch-up meeting with two local resident consultants who’ve been working on a social gardening programme at two local community gardens since 2021. They’re running a research-based project looking into how local people can shape the use of these important shared spaces. Having listened and responded to people, these two gardens are now growing in popularity, with more than 650 visits made to them last year. We’ll be taking the learnings from the research report – which will be out soon – to inform how we can better involve local people in ensuring other community gardens can also flourish in the future.


My day begins at Tump 53, a two-acre nature reserve that we manage, which is used for our outdoor education programme. It’s unusual for a housing association, but helps us offer high-quality outdoor experiences for young people in Thamesmead. Around 2,500 young people visit every year, and we provide lessons linked to local plants and animals, as well as fire-lighting and shelter-building activities. I have a site meeting with a theatre company to walk through their plans for putting on performances in the nature reserve.

I then head off to Southmere Park to drop in to the Tiny Forest where a citizen science afternoon is being held to collect data and talk about the forest. We had a great turnout and were lucky with the sunny weather.

The group are measuring tree heights, widths and taking invertebrate surveys to see what creatures are hiding in the forest. This data will feed into a national data network of Tiny Forests. The Tiny Forest was planted by local people and is two years old – we check on the trees frequently to ensure they’re in good condition.


Today I’m in Thamesmead, kicking off the day catching up with our estate services team about the upkeep of the area. They do a fantastic job of looking after a staggering 240 hectares of green spaces, five lakes and seven kilometres of canal network.

After that, I’m managing an open day for prospective outdoor swimming and boating operators to look around Birchmere and Southmere lakes. The new operator will launch a new activity programme for visitors and residents.

We’ve been focusing on supporting people who feel unable to access swimming and water sport activities due to costs or nervousness around water. Encouraging people to be active and make the most of the blue and green spaces on the doorstep is a key part of our work, so it’s great to add this to our list of outdoor activities.


I’m able to work flexibly and I condense my hours into four days a week. My Fridays give me the chance to spend time with my one-year-old and I enjoy getting out and about in nature myself.

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