Despite the Covid-19 pandemic and the many challenges linked to carrying out in-person projects over the past year, our community work in Oxford is showcasing the possibilities of working with the NHS for engaging communities and creating opportunities for accessing green spaces for health and wellbeing.
As we approach COP26, the world’s leading climate change conference, topics such as the preservation, creation and use of green spaces are making headlines. In this environment, it's important to remind ourselves of the way nature makes us feel, and the positive effects of connecting to green spaces. This positive relationship is shown in research which demonstrates that simply by spending time in nature we can experience benefits such as reduced anxiety and stress levels (1).
As part of a series of community Green Health Routes, the Botley Health Routes project was launched in June 2021 and is working to offer a Covid-19 recovery channel for the local community by providing activities and materials which promote access to the parks, woodlands, and meadows Botley has to offer.
By working together with the local health centre, local government, and other community organisations, the Botley Health Routes project has developed a community map highlighting local green spaces and showing ideas of walking routes through nature. The project has also established a regular walking group and trained local volunteers to lead health walks. The community map has also been an asset in providing individuals with information on local routes to try in their own time.
Linking with the local GP surgery has also allowed the project to promote physical activity in nature for the prevention of ill health and as a health management tool. Patients receive “green prescriptions” to the project’s walking group and have an opportunity to experiment with physical activity in nature as a part of their health management.
In addition to regular walks, the Botley Health Routes project has engaged with local schools to promote nature-based activities and several wildlife walks have been delivered. These include bird walks, a bee and butterfly walk and meadow walks.
A recent meadow walk held during the Oxford Open Doors weekend, a city-wide event which provides access to natural and heritage sites, helped us celebrate the end of summer and prepare for beautiful walks this coming autumn. The walk, which was led by biologist Dr Tim King, celebrated Botley’s history and Hinksey Meadow’s diverse wildlife.
(1) AHA (American Heart Association), 2018. Spend Time in Nature to Reduce Stress and Anxiety. Retrieved from: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-managem...
Martyn, P., & Brymer, E. (2016). The relationship between nature relatedness and anxiety. Journal of Health Psychology, 21(7), 1436–1445. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105314555169