By Philippa Reece, Environment Manager
As a social housing provider in Manchester, we are lucky to own 180 green spaces within our urban setting.
These spaces have become an urban oasis for our tenants and residents of Manchester as a whole.
For our 10th anniversary as an organisation, we wanted to leave a lasting legacy and what better way of doing this than utilising our green spaces within this process.
We decided to create a walking / running / cycling trail around one of our neighbourhoods and as part of this work involve the local community in enhancing their surroundings as well.
We have worked with local schools to create a wooden sculpture, locally known as ‘Mother Nature’ with the artist, Phil Bews working alongside the children to teach them how to carve details into this amazing feature.
Two other local artists with the support of young people who live within this area helped to design and create colourful junction boxes and an urban nature scene for the back drop of mother nature.
We made links with local coffee mornings and visitor centres to start an epic knitathon that has enabled us to have a variety of tree socks on multiple locations within this neighbourhood, this also created a knitathon within our organisation with people knitting for months to create all these tree socks.
We have a fairy trail, with lights in the trees and a variety of doors to hunt and find, as well as some very strange creatures leaving footprints along some of our passageways.
A sensory garden and multiple orchards on route round where you can harvest and eat free fruit. We have introduced wild garlic to some areas that once established can be used for cooking.
Seasonal bulb displays with additional areas created under the canopies of our urban forest adding depth, colour and beauty to these areas.
It’s proved to be a great way to connect people together within their local neighbourhoods, connect people back to nature, create physical activity as a long term goal and most of all improve our green spaces for humans and animals alike.
The project has created interest at the University of Manchester and as a result, there is a connected academic research project being delivered;
Researchers at the University of Manchester are currently collaborating with Southway Housing Trust to carry out a study evaluating the impact of the tree trail on older adults’ wellbeing (as part of the Green Infrastructure and the Health and Wellbeing Influences on an Ageing Population (GHIA) project). The researchers are measuring older adults’ physical activity and two other behavioural indicators of wellbeing (connecting with other people and taking notice of the environment), collected using a new observation tool that they recently developed. These outcomes are also being measured in older adults across several other similar comparison neighbourhoods in Greater Manchester where no such improvements are planned. The study is due to be completed in September 2018. Further research is also planned for later in the year using interviews with local residents.
The researchers hope that this body of work will generate useful evidence on the potential positive impact of small-scale improvements in urban green space on the health and wellbeing of older adults. This type of evidence is crucial for strengthening the case for planning and investment in urban green space.
For those interested in keeping up to date with the latest findings from these studies, please contact Jack Benton who is the PhD student leading this research (email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @JackSBenton).
To find out more about the Green Infrastructure and the Health and Wellbeing Influences on an Ageing Population (GHIA) project go to www.valuing-nature.net/ghia