With its abundant green spaces, history of conservation, places to visit and cultural venues to enjoy, Havering's unsung attributes are beginning to be discovered. Carly Cassano reports
The borough of Havering kisses the border of the rural Essex county like a bird kisses the sky. And about half of it lies within London's Green Belt.
It's not hard to see that the inherent dichotomy of city and country life in the area has long been both a challenge and an inspiration.
Consider the fact that environmental protections of the early 20th century were, according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), in response to the "wanton destruction" of wildlife in London.
Specifically, it was common practice for ladies and dignitaries to wear bird plumes in their hats. Because the RSPB advocated against it, conscious consumers, so to speak, became convinced that wearing decorative feathers was unethical, and thereby totally unfashionable. This kind of environmental forward thinking was an effort to reconnect to the natural world, while maintaining urban sensibilities.
Havering has been a bright star in this balancing act for many years. From the 1930s until the early 1980s, the Greater London Council recruited student architects to work with local communities and sociologists to design innovative common spaces, schools, centres for the arts and council housing with a sense of purpose.
Today, Havering is known for its 13 Green Flag parks – the national standard for high-quality open spaces – award-winning artistry and theatres, and some solid residential areas.
Homes, restaurants, markets and community centres in Havering have stood the test of time alongside, and in many cases in harmony with, ancient lands and rare wildlife.
A £400,000 campaign aimed at making Havering cleaner and tidier was launched in April.