At Greenbelt, we love to share our passion for the many benefits open, natural environments can bring to a community.
With issues like climate change and public health never far from our screens, we don’t just want to offer professional, all-inclusive stewardship of open spaces – we want to truly champion these areas and promote their physical, mental, social and emotional benefits, too!
For example, studies show that as access to green, natural spaces increases, feelings of stress, anxiety or depression tend to decrease proportionally; the larger, fuller and more pleasing the open space, the more pronounced this effect is likely to be.
Back in 2017, our Regional Operations Manager for Scotland, Donald Ferguson, presented his dissertation exploring this concept to the Landscape and Wellbeing International Conference in Lisbon.
Donald’s study found our surroundings can have a significant impact on performance when exercising – with open spaces like parks and mountains seeming to impart greater levels of concentration and motivation, compared to urban settings or indoor gyms.
“The idea our wellbeing is linked to the quality of our green spaces seems instinctive to many of us,” says Donald.
“The study of the connections between environment and health dates back to ancient cities in Greece, China and Persia.
“In a time when Western societies are facing growing mental health problems and stress-related illnesses, it’s important to recognise the connection between landscape and our health – mental or physical.
More recently, Donald delivered a guest lecture on Environmental Psychology to students at Scotland’s Rural College (SRuC), the learning centre where he originally studied.
This marked the second time in as many years Donald had been invited to speak to SRuC students. This time his visit included leading students around a nearby Greenbelt development to offer practical insight into common land management practices and roles.
“It’s great to be able to share my experience with a new generation of horticulture students, especially in a valuable, hands-on context,” says Donald.
“I’ve already had several e-mails from students who attended – including some asking for a job!”
Sam Marshall, currently Greenbelt’s Business Development and Brand Manager, was also recently invited to deliver a guest lecture at the University of Sheffield.
Sam – who was awarded the Landscape Design Trust Management Prize in 2018 – spoke to third-year Landscape Architecture students about Greenbelt’s habitat creation and management activities, which related to the students’ Ecology: Habitat Creation and Repair module.
The lecture focused on another development, Hauxton Meadows in Cambridgeshire. While this site has not yet been passed to us for transfer and routine maintenance by the developer, Redrow South Midlands, Greenbelt’s contracts team does undertake work on their behalf, including habitat creation.
Our early involvement with Hauxton Meadows included new tree planting and marginal planting, the creation of an ecological flood relief channel and species-rich grassland area, and preliminary management of the grasslands, woodland, hedgerows and riverbank levee.
The diverse, wildlife-abundant area also includes both bird and bat boxes for the animals to shelter in – and even an artificial otter holt installed by the riverbank!
“Landscape has an important role in current and future development, particularly the creation, restoration or enhancement of habitat,” says Sam.
“I discussed the importance of retaining habitat in new developments and its inclusion in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
“As a managing company, Greenbelt assists developers in securing the long-term sustainable management of these spaces.”
If you’re interested in Greenbelt’s commitment to education, physical and mental health, and reinvesting positively in the community, you can read about our mentorship programme with the Royal Horticultural Society’s Campaign for School Gardening, among other great projects, here.