Let’s not take our public parks for granted
Since 2006, in partnership with the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Big Lottery Fund has committed £140m to public parks across the UK. The Parks for People programme has helped to transform green spaces into areas that local communities can enjoy all year round.
Love Parks Week (27 July – 4 August) aims to raise awareness of the importance of parks and green spaces in the UK, showcasing the benefits they bring and highlighting the need for continual investment and engagement.
In this guest blog, Keep Britain Tidy‘s Helen Bingham explains more about the initiative and the wide-ranging ways in which our public parks have a impact upon the health and wellbeing of local communities.
Working for an environmental charity that champions the benefits of green spaces means that you end up knowing a great deal about how they improve the quality of people’s day-to-day lives.
Lots of research exists about how crucial green spaces are to communities and individuals. Statistics (PDF) tell us that taking a brisk walk in a local green space can reduce your risk of a heart attack by 50%, strokes by 50% and Alzheimer’s by 25%.
However, in the midst of all the serious evidence it’s sometimes easy to forget that parks are simply lovely places to spend some time with friends, family or colleagues.
This week is Love Parks Week, run by Keep Britain Tidy. On Monday we also announced the Green Flag Award winners for parks and green spaces for 2013-14. A record number of parks, cemeteries and community gardens received a Green Flag Award – the benchmark for quality green space in the UK.
The Love Parks Week launch took place at Victoria Embankment Gardens in central London and, thankfully, the sun shone on us.
What was most remarkable about the day was the number of people using the park. There were nursery workers pushing prams full of tots, tourists with weary feet from a day’s sightseeing, young people from uniformed organisations and older, retired people.
What united them all were the smiles on their faces. They were enjoying the space, the ice creams and the sound of a steel band. They were playing table tennis with communal bats and balls and even attempting a game of giant Jenga.
Parks do make a difference to health and wellbeing. They give people a chance, however briefly, to breathe in some fresh air, to talk in tones above a hushed whisper or simply to lie back on the grass with a good book.
They allow parents to let their children run off some energy in a safe environment and they allow those who may be lonely to interact with others.
Yes, this week is Love Parks Week and it’s a special time when people come together in parks to celebrate our wonderful green spaces. Let us not forget, however, that our love affair with parks is a year-round thing.
About three and half billion visits are made to the UK’s parks every year. They’re a vital resource that needs valuing and protecting and we all have a role to play in making sure our quality green spaces, truly a national asset, stay that way for everyone to enjoy.
For more information on Love Parks Week, please visit: www.loveparksweek.org.uk/
Helen Bingham is Communication and PR Manager, Keep Britain Tidy
What do you think of Helen’s guest blog? Why do you think parks matter?
Leave your comments on the blog below or join the conversation on Twitter using #LoveParksWeek.