The Greener Communities Fund
A daily dose of nature
The Greener Communities Fund is a new, multi-million pound fund, helping local NHS charities to create more green spaces across the UK – and improve the nation's health in the process. Spending time in nature has been shown to make us feel better and improve our mental health, yet there are several barriers to accessing nature. The Greener Communities projects will make use of spaces in hospitals grounds, health care centers and within communities to boost biodiversity, as well as improving connection with nature, and therefore health and wellbeing.
The fund is a partnership between Hubbub and NHS Charities Together, made possible through the Starbucks 5p cup charge.
Lacking access to green space
In the UK, roughly 1 in 5 people live in areas deprived of green space (Friends of the Earth). That's over 1,000 neighbourhoods. Yet green space brings a budding list of benefits, from improved health and wellbeing, to increased biodiversity and reduced flood risk. Not everyone can live near a national park, so making our urban and built environments more nature friendly is needed to help connect more people with green spaces. It’s predicted that with a growing population, we need 4,000 new green spaces by 2033 just to keep up with current levels of access to green space (Fields in Trusts).
What do we know about ‘a daily dose of nature’ ?
Hubbub polling (2023) explored how long people currently spent in green spaces and how it makes them feel. And the health sector is increasingly acknowledging the benefits of nature to our physical and mental health.
People spend around 4 hours in nature
Our polling showed time spent in a green or natural space such as a garden, public park or countryside was quite low, on average.
But nearly half spend less
In fact, 46% of people spend under 3 hours a week in nature, with 22% spending an hour or less a week.
Despite ‘nature = happy’ for many
Yet many said that spending time in nature makes them feel happier, calmer and more relaxed and overall feels good for their wellbeing.
Green space can be unappealing
After time constraints, people noted barriers to accessing green space being they perceive green space as unappealing or unpleasant.
Healthcare is prescribing nature to improve health and wellbeing
Called ‘Green Social Prescribing’ it recognises the benefit of nature to our physical and mental health. A £5m UK trial aims to tackle mental ill health through prescribing outdoor activities like walking and gardening.
How we’re connecting communities to nature
Knowing the benefits of nature, but barriers to accessing it, we want to help change this. So, we teamed up with NHS Charities Together to support NHS charities around the UK with Greener Communities Fund grants of between £29,000 and £200,000. These projects created green spaces that benefit people’s health and wellbeing, and support those with limited access to nature, such as hospital patients and staff and people living in urban communities.
The types of projects include creating a meadow on hospital grounds, community vegetable growing across a city, sensory gardens for mental health patients, outdoor play equipment for children with disabilities, a therapeutic woodland with guided walking routes and a therapy garden to support elderly, stroke and dementia patients. To see the impact of some of the earliest projects, check out our Greener Communities Toolkit.
Here’s four we made earlier...
Alongside the 10 projects selected for funding, Hubbub have been working with 4 pilot projects provide learnings, and demonstrate how to successfully transform green spaces and engage local groups to access the spaces.
When you live in a climate where you can experience all 4 seasons in a day, bad weather can be a real barrier to getting out into nature. At Llandough Hospital, Cardiff a 7 acre ‘health meadow’ of wildflowers and native trees allows patients, staff, and the community to access green space. But without any sheltered space, spending time in the space became more difficult in both wet and sunny weather.
This project addressed this, by creating two roundhouses using Welsh timber and traditional building methods, to add sheltered spaces on the meadow. These structures allow patient consultations to happen outdoors, and NHS staff to run green social prescribing activities no matter the weather. But the benefits of the roundhouse began before they were even completed. The preparation of the timber and shaping of the wooden beams was all done by volunteers and patient groups – including those in rehabilitation from brain injuries and stroke and local school groups. Partner organisation Down2Earth ran 8-week programs, getting people outdoors learning green building techniques.
The Green Health Walk is a guided nature walk on Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH)’s Prestwich Site, created by Sow the City. The walk has seven differently themed areas to visit, including an orchard, allotment, bat boxes, and a herb garden.
The project has seen the walk enhanced with additional planting, and developed opportunities for service users, staff and visitors to interact with the space, including training to lead the Green Health Walks, and to grow more produce.
The Shields Community Garden, based next to a GP surgery, and Midlock St Garden are green spaces that improve access to nature and support development of social and green care prescribing pathways.
The project worked with Urban Roots to increase engagement in greenspace activity for South Asian women, and they employed a local female Punjabi/Urdu speaking group facilitator, known as a Greenspace Connector, who encouraged people to get involved in the space.
The community garden project in Sutton transformed an existing un-used space along Ply Brook to create an accessible community garden for growing food and encouraging biodiversity and wildlife. Working with Habitats & Heritage and local health care, the garden demonstrated the positive benefits of green spaces for health and wellbeing, hosting sessions for community groups, and linking to a local GP surgery.
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