Nature's way to improve our health

Ribble Rivers Trust has led a national research project to highlight where creating and improving people’s access to outdoor spaces could benefit health and wellbeing.

The results will lead to health walks, community run micro-tree nurseries, outdoor volunteering opportunities and education programmes in the areas around Lancashire where communities are most in need.

The research completed by Ellie Brown, the Trust’s Strategic Evidence and Geographic Information System Manager, highlights the locations of health and wellbeing issues across England.

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The work was funded by the Catchment Based Approach(CaBa), Natural Course and Lancashire County Council.

Volunteering opportunities are available

The online interactive map produced focuses on obesity, inactivity, and related illnesses including mental health issues, and the current level of access to green and blue spaces – outdoor spaces with greenery and water.

It was designed to help RRT and other organisations to identify opportunities where the creation of publicly accessible blue and green space, or improving people’s access to such spaces, could have the greatest benefit for health and wellbeing.

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This includes not only formal public open spaces such as parks and nature reserves but also footpaths by rivers, through woods and fields, and through provision of active, outdoor volunteering tasks.

“It’s now very well documented and evidenced how access to blue and green space has a positive impact on health and wellbeing, “ said Ellie.

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“And it is hoped that if people access the outdoors regularly, they’re more likely to appreciate it and look after it.”

Following a successful bid to the Green Recovery Challenge Fund, RRT and partners have designed the Health and Environmental Action Lancashire (HEAL) project using Ellie’s evidence.

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HEAL aims to improve the health and wellbeing of the communities most in need through involving them in environmental action in locations where the environment will also benefit.

Key areas of Lancashire struggling with health and wellbeing and lack of access to green and blue space were identified and include Hyndburn and Pendle, where a programme of wetland creation, grassland and heathland management, footpath improvements, and active volunteering will benefit local people as well as helping nature.

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These areas also will be targeted for a series of health walks where tree seeds will be collected and planted in community-run micro tree nurseries to provide volunteering opportunities for people with limited fitness.

The project also involves woodland creation and training for local people in conservation skills such as ecological surveys, dry stone walling and hedge laying.

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Visit for more information on the findings.