It started with a question for a panel discussion at work:
What is the value of parks and open spaces to you?
I did some homework. I read up on the return on investment figures, and the £ value that parks and open spaces create.
I knew that the knowledge and experience of my fellow panel members would make for a wide ranging and interesting conversation.
There is a growing body of evidence on the value of parks and open spaces, and connection with nature, which is powerful.
It helps us to make the case for investment in the creation and maintenance of our parks, bridleways, footpaths, canals and to lobby and campaign for open access to water and open spaces. Something that we have a long history of doing around these parts.
Then, if we can tell stories, share photos and remind people of the benefits of being outdoors, we can inspire and excite people to move more, connect with each other away from the couch, the iPad, the TV and the office desk.
I took to social media the night before, to tune in, to reignite the fire in me that believes deeply that people of all ages will be happier and healthier, develop better relationships and be more productive if they spend more time outside.
I wasn’t disappointed. Over the next few hours, I read stories that filled my heart with joy. Contributions that made me cry, because I knew the stories that lay beneath.
My friends, family and colleagues reminded me of the power of nature in ways that even I had forgotten. And they’ve given me permission to share.
What is the value of parks and open spaces to you? This is what they said.
I hope you enjoy it, and are inspired to venture outside today….
“A snowy bank to slide down, a puddle to splash in, a daisy chain to be made and a ball to kick, a picnic with friends and a baby bird to watch.
Fun – family – friendship, fitness of mind and body, fresh air and most of all free”. (Teresa)
“Health, fitness, mental well being. Time as a family. Time with friends. Walk and talk. Turns grumpy children into social, happy chatty beings! Sports practice. The vast majority of my clients prefer to get out to the park to exercise as much as possible rather than be in a gym”.
“Also our park/playing fields is very much at the centre of the community for sports events and social gatherings. Play area for little ones and hang out for teens”. (Ellie)
“Getting high up helps me to breathe easy and clears my head. Space, nature and different terrain for exercise and catching up with friends.
Kids chat on walks and in the hills more than most other environments… I always enjoy and never tire of the colours and textures of the changing seasons- inspires my creativity!” (Hannah)
“Feeling the wind on your face, sunshine and stars. Smells as well. Insects, flowers and birds. Space to breathe and be yourself with other people. A sense of scale, the minute world and the enormity of the sky gives me a sense of awe and perspective. Freedom to move as a way of sensing the space I use in this world. Sharing all these things with other people“. (Sophie)
“Love the changing seasons. The first flowers of Spring and fresh green leaves on the trees. The warm of the summer sun, the changing autumn colours and frosty, snowy winter days.
Living in a city, the parks and open spaces are vital to create a peaceful environment away from the traffic and built up areas where you can enjoy nature and relax or exercise in beautiful surroundings“. (Pat)
“Outside space is massively important to us. Ask Isla what she would like to do .. every time it’s the park & swings. Luca would always answer riding his bike he likes the trails or a visit to a scooter park”.”I’m happy just being out in an open space, I do like to get up high. Feel the wind on my face, I find a sense of calm as you get higher”.
“Yesterday I walked through Piccadilly Gardens, everyone enjoying that little bit of green amongst the hustle. As for our children in the city I do think UK cities are way behind other European cities that have children’s play equipment everywhere. Last year in Seville, Malaga & Barcelona every few streets had a play area (albeit small in some cases)”. (Lorna)
“Frisbee is the call to be answered for 30 mins after work, making tea and tidying, it’s time to play, to show off and to teach to pass on skills to see nearly instant improvements, to connect at at a childlike level, lay in the grass looking up cloud busting seeing rabbits, dragons, shoes and ducks. The feel and look of the long grass and trees swaying in the wind like waves connects and grounds you with the WORLD, the laughter of your children warms through to your soul. All that in 30 minutes playing frisbee and looking at the sky in a park“. (Carl)
“Space to walk the dog. Space to think about anything and nothing. Space to meet people. Space to take time out. Space to sit and do nothing and space to exercise hard. Space to people watch. Space to breath. Space to just BE. I love parks in the City. Possibly the most democratic of spaces“. (Mandy)
“Nature brings me peace. It calms my mind and gives me a sense of home. I’ve grown up outdoors; climbing, walking, hiking and playing games and not only does it do my physical health good, but it improves my mental health hugely.” (Megan)
“The sense of being free and reminding yourself that your just a very small part of this wonderful planet. Be it a 6 minute walk to school or an hour chewing the fat whilst walking the dog, both give you a sense that everything will be alright.” (Stephen)
“Always important places both personally and for a whole city. They’ve been a sanctuary in bad times to walk around slowly and think and talk or just to walk silently hand in hand. More usually now they’re a space for me to run (and go around again when I need distance adding). They’ve also been venues for mass participation sports events and school competitions.
My favourite use though is with my two girls on scooters, running, climbing trees, rolling in long grass, feeding grass to horses, watching squirrels.
Importantly, they’re a place open to everyone regardless of background or income. They’re the most democratic and judgement-free spaces we have and are vital places to preserve and improve“. (Will)
“Parks for me have always been an escape from the city…thinking of when I lived in London. A splash of what I craved from the countryside available to the rat race. They are a place of calm and peace from the hustle and bustle, even when not actually quiet“.
“I used to walk laps of a local square in London and eat my lunch on warm days…escaping the office as much as I could for the whole 60 minute lunch break.”
Outside space offers wonder and growth, seeing lovely little things growing, allowing myself to take pleasure in tiny things amongst the vastness of, say Bleaklow….the cotton grass explosion or the minute lichen you see as hands on knees you make your way up a steep hillside. Finding wonder and a positive thing when the physical challenge of fell running could have you frustrated at lack of fitness or health.
Breathing deeply in fresh air brings calm and a sense of self. The outdoors is magically rejuvenating, whether that’s on a solo adventure challenging myself to get and push long distances or on a social outing. I am always amazed and relieved in equal measures that you can do a 20-30 km run over Kinder and Bleaklow and not see a single person. (Lynne)
“Any spare money we have .. we put it into our garden .. and outdoor stuff ! Just being outside gives you the air and space to breathe” (Lisa)
“My local park now, Manor Park in Glossop, helping out at parkrun is really important to me…seeing other people challenge themselves physically and get over mental hurdles too. I love being part of parkrun so I can give back to my local community.” (Lynne)
“It’s good for the soul. When we are out their we think of nothing else and we are in the moment. We connect. It also makes us appreciate the earth and gives us a sense of worldliness which we can’t do when we are indoors. We have to get outdoors more and help youngsters appreciate nature and wildlife to enable them to protect it all now and in the future“. (Richard)
Fresh air, space, peace – I feel suffocated if I spend too much time indoors or in a big city. Open spaces are easier to breathe in (literally and metaphorically).
For the kids, they are so much free-er outdoors. They aren’t confined, they can run, climb trees, kick a ball, sledge, and it doesn’t matter how loud or wild they want to me, the space is big enough to accommodate them in a way that inside the house never is! (Mandy)
Down the tramway, always changes with the seasons. Whether walking to school or the pub. (Stephen)
“We are Fompers, Friends of Moathouse Park. A small group of local people meet every couple of weeks or so, and do litter picks, trim the trees & keep footpaths clear etc. We meet in the local pub & are often joined by our park rangers. They listen to what we want done & often make it happen. They join us on our work days & make sure rubbish bags are taken & branches shredded. Taking an active part in the upkeep has somany benefits & really makes us want to keep our space looking lovely“. (Sue)
“I can walk out the door and in minutes have silence apart from the birds… Misty mornings… And frosty ground in winter and summer bring the barges passing on the canal usually giving a wave and good morning… Meeting other people with there dogs having a chat… Can walk for miles if I want and it clears my head time for thinking and reflection … So much wildlife around you would never know that we were in a city” (Donna)
And finally a lovely poem from a friend I’ve shared all this with since we met at ante- natal group 16 years ago, and joyfully discovered we’d found someone else you liked to be active outdoors, even when pregnant!