The vital importance of our natural outdoor ‘green spaces’ has been vividly highlighted in the findings of a new survey carried out by the Valleys Regional Park.
The survey aimed to gauge how people valued local green space and whether this had changed as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. The survey ran from July to September this year and reached people in every local authority across the Valleys region. Over 400 people completed the full survey, while some individual questions generated over 1000 responses.
The results resoundingly confirmed the value of local green spaces for people across the Valleys, particularly since the arrival of Covid.
Among the important findings, the survey highlighted a significant change in attitudes with 74% appreciating green space more following lockdown, while 82% were more aware of wildlife as they found new places to explore locally.
The survey also demonstrated the positive impact on wellbeing – 96% felt green space helped their health and mental health during lockdown, with 81% wanting more green spaces near home.
When asked for additional comments on the opportunities provided by accessing local green space, the top answer was the vital importance of outdoor green spaces to mental health/wellbeing.
The survey further highlighted the significant potential to improve wellbeing in the future – 54% used local green space to take up new exercise regimes during lockdown, with 95% saying they will use green space more in future. Of those, 356 respondents said they wanted to use green spaces more for walking, 162 for cycling and 77 for running. 225 respondents wanted to visit more nature reserves.
Importantly, more people now want to get involved – when asked what activities people would like to do more of in green spaces following lockdown, over 100 respondents expressed that they would like to volunteer for conservation projects.
Over 50 respondents said that green space was important to their business.
The evidence has been building for many years now, but the coronavirus crisis is highlighting in real terms just how important access to the natural environment is to our collective wellbeing. And this is without taking into account the vital importance of healthy landscapes in delivering so-called ‘ecosystem services’ and mitigating the effects of the climate emergency.
As the Valleys landscape continues to recover from the effects of its industrial past, so it presents huge opportunities for supporting the health, wealth and happiness of local communities. And as we collectively look towards a ‘Green Recovery’ from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Valleys Regional Park survey adds yet further imperative that our parks and natural landscapes are recognised not simply as being nice places to visit at the weekend, but as vital components of our overall health infrastructure, a living green network that underpins our wider health and resilience, in good times and bad.