With all the challenges facing our green spaces it’s often easy to forget how much they have improved over recent years largely down to the persistence, care, and attention of local people, writes Paul Macey.

An example of this came to mind last month with the sad news of the passing of one such person, Constance Gyaniao. 

Way back in 2008, when little or nothing was happening in Thornton Heath Rec and thoughts of outdoor gyms, brook clear outs, cricket pitches or edible gardens were fanciful notions, the Iftil All Stars FC arrived. 

Iftil were a junior football team looking for a home coached by a former Nigerian FA coach and formed by Constance and her family. They set about the task with gusto.

Training took place every Saturday morning and more than one local commented on how nice it was to see the club in the Rec and the sight of young people being nurtured with such enthusiasm and care. 

Sadly, for a variety of reasons outside its control the club couldn’t secure the Rec as a home despite the best efforts of Constance with the support of others including the newly formed Friends of the Rec.

Despite this blow its impact was perhaps even more important as there can be no doubt that the club’s presence inspired others to see the Rec as a place that belonged to the community, open to all and worth fighting for. 

So, as we say our sad goodbyes to Constance and send heartfelt commiserations to her family we must also remember her role in helping many of us see our Thornton Heath as a place of possibilities.