The Covid-19 pandemic has presented many challenges when it comes to carrying out in-person projects. However, our community work in Oxford continues to showcase the possibilities of working with the NHS for engaging communities and creating opportunities for accessing green spaces for health and wellbeing.
The Botley Health Routes project was launched in June 2021 as part of the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare’s series of community Green Health Routes. The Oxfordshire project offers a Covid-19 recovery channel for the community by providing activities and materials which promote access to the area’s parks, woodlands, and meadows.
Working with the local health centre, local government, and other community organisations, the Botley Health Routes project has developed a community map highlighting green spaces and suggested walking routes through nature. Individuals can use this map to walk the routes in their own time; the project has also established a regular walking group and trained local volunteers to lead the walks.
Linking with the local GP surgery enables 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 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 walks this coming autumn. The walk, led by biologist Dr Tim King, celebrated Botley’s history and Hinksey Meadow’s diverse wildlife.
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.