Posted in Events, News, Residents

Nature is Not Only ‘Nice to Have’

Nature is not only nice to have, but it’s a have-to-have for physical health and cognitive function.” Richard Louv. 

This month’s blog is a guest blog on the benefits of connecting with nature from the wonderful Jo Worthy-Jones from Haven 4 Wildlife.

The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness week (10-16th May) is reconnecting with nature.  The lockdowns over the last year have highlighted how important being able to get outside is to people when other aspects of their lives have been limited.

But why? What is it about being outside in nature that we value so much? And what does ‘reconnecting’ even mean?

Sadly, I can’t give a definitive answer – I’m sure if we asked 100 people, we’d get 100 different answers!   But many years of working with people of all ages and backgrounds outside, mainly taking part in gardening activities to improve outdoor spaces for wildlife, has proved to me that we underestimate the pull of, and the need for, natural spaces and the people who support and guide others to access them.

It’s easy to forget in our hurly burly lives, surrounded by technology which connects us and the world in ways unimaginable even 20 years ago, that we are very much part of the natural world here and now. There is nothing in our lives that we don’t need nature for.  Don’t believe me? Think about it for a moment.  Our phones, televisions, game boxes, cars, furniture, houses, etc, etc all come from the natural world.  Anything ‘man made’ or synthetic has a natural origin. 

We evolved to have 5 senses that, given the opportunity, tune us into nature without us even thinking about it.  We often describe it nowadays as ‘mindfulness’ – the experience of being ‘in the moment’ and allowing ourselves to tune into what’s happening at that particular time. 

Listening to bird song, watching bees foraging for pollen and nectar, and noticing the changes of the leaves on a tree over the seasons, are just a few examples.  Maybe that’s what we mean by reconnecting – allowing our innate link to the natural world to be expressed rather than see it as something separate from us.

Places like the Rest Garden on the Tewkesbury Road and groups like Friends of Elmfield Park, with the support of community- led organisations like St Peter and the Moors Big Local, are there to give local people the opportunity to enjoy being outside while making the environment better for people and wildlife. The social and feel good aspect of being welcomed and part of a green space, even if it’s just to sit and have a chat, should be celebrated and encouraged.

I hope I’ll see you at the Rest Garden soon.

Jo

Haven 4 Wildlife

Mondays at the Rest Garden

The Tewkesbury Road Rest Garden is now open on Mondays! It’s open to all from 9.30am-1.30pm and from 2pm-4.30pm for families.

Come along and join the fabulous Jo, help look after this lovely little retreat, and learn about the wildlife that lives there.

Whether you’d like to grow your own food, pop in for a chat, or just relax and enjoy the benefits of being in nature, you’re so welcome!

If you have any questions, or you’d like more information, contact Jo on 07949064345.

Posted in News, Residents

Space to Thrive: The Benefits of Spending Time in Green Spaces

Photograph of Elmfield Park in Cheltenham.

We are very lucky to have green spaces we can enjoy in St. Peters and The Moors, and they have been a lifeline for many local people during the lockdowns.

They’re a place to walk the dog, go for a stroll, play with the kids, or just sit and watch the world go by. Our green spaces are so valuable for our mental health, our physical wellbeing, and for our community.

The benefits of spending time in green spaces

Space to thrive

Back in January last year, researchers from Sheffield Hallam University and The University of Sheffield in partnership with the National Lottery Community Fund, carried out a review of the existing evidence of the benefits parks and green spaces have for people and communities.

They published the Space to Thrive Report, which found that:

  • Access to and use of parks and green spaces enhances physical health, mental wellbeing, and life satisfaction.
  • People need parks close to where they live, but the parks need to be of a good enough quality for them to want to visit regularly. The quality of the parks was found to more important for health than the quantity.
  • Visiting parks can help reduce obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
  • Spending time in green spaces improves mental wellbeing and relieves stress.
  • Parks can bring the community together by getting people involved in events and initiatives to improve and care for their green spaces. This can help to build a sense of pride and encourage people to love where they live.

What the report recommended

Parks should be seen as social, not just physical infrastructure

While it’s important to invest in keeping parks fit for purpose, the main thing is to actually encourage people to use them. Any investment should be focused on community engagement and supporting activities that get people using the parks and caring about them.

Parks should be places where you can be active and feel relaxed

There should be opportunities for people in the community to exercise (like outdoor fitness classes, sports pitches, or outdoor exercise equipment) as well as places where they can relax and enjoy nature.

People should feel safe in parks

Lighting and pathways should be improved so that people feel safe using the parks where they live.

Elmfield Park

Photograph of a small purple wildflower in Elmfield Park, Cheltenham.

The report and its recommendations brings us nicely to our very own Elmfield Park. Many of you will use it whether it’s to walk the dog, exercise, or play with the kids, so we want your feedback on how the park could be improved and whether you agree with the improvements that have been already suggested in the Elmfield Park Masterplan, including the addition of some more wildflower meadows, an all-weather pitch, and improved pathways and lighting.

The park is so important for our wellbeing and our community, but it needs to be fit for purpose, a lovely place to be, and safe so that people feel like they want to spend time there.

We would love to know what you think. Please take a few minutes to complete our survey on what you think would make Elmfield Park a better place.

If you love where you live and you have green fingers (or even if you don’t!) you can join the Friends of Elmfield Park, a group of local residents who volunteer their time to make improvements to Elmfield Park and the Rest Garden on Tewkesbury Rd.

There are plenty of opportunities to get involved. Head over to our Facebook group or contact alison.friendsofelmfieldpark@gmail.com to find out more.

Flyer advertising the community group Friends of Elmfield Park.

Another chance to have your say 

You’ll be getting a booklet through your letterbox soon, and it’s all about The Big Local Community Plan for St. Peter’s and The Moors. Our project is all about investing our funding in the things that matter to you in the community and empowering residents to make a difference and access services, projects, and activities where they live.

In the plan booklet, you’ll be able to read all about what we’ve achieved so far and what we have planned for the future. We’d love your feedback on the community plan; we believe that together, we can make St. Peter’s and The Moors a better place for everyone.

If you’d like to have a sneak preview and leave some feedback now, you can check out the plan here.