Urban Growing

Southern Brooks Community Partnerships: Green Spaces Projects

By Ayla Melville

Ayla Melville writes about one of the many inspiring Southern Brooks Green Spaces projects: the organisation’s response to a growing need for opportunities in the community to improve well-being through green social prescribing. 

One of the more positive things to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic was the recognition of the direct corelation between being outdoors in nature, and our physical and mental health. Cities in particular have been seen to have a large inequality of access to green spaces, causing a negative effect on well-being. Since the pandemic, the NHS has committed to growing the number of social prescribing link workers in primary care. This community-based support enables GPs, agencies and health and care practitioners to refer people to a link worker who will offer their time and find a focus that matters to the individual. For those who would benefit from green social prescribing, nature-based interventions and activities such as local walking, community gardening and food-growing projects are available.

Southern Brooks Community Partnerships aim to reach across South Gloucestershire to create and grow community by building strong networks with community organisations and volunteer groups. They are passionate about creating opportunities for improving well-being through connection to nature, getting outdoor exercise, learning new skills and meeting new people. Their involvement in green social prescribing was in response to the request of South Gloucestershire Social Services to set up a community allotment.

This challenge was met with complete enthusiasm from Georgina Green, Green Spaces Coordinator, “We jumped at the chance. It’s in keeping with our values of giving the community the skills to sustain themselves. It enables people to connect with each other; it’s an opportunity for people to give back to their community, feel good about themselves and build self-esteem.”

Georgia runs the Pound Road site, which offers well-being workshops, weekly gardening groups and weekly mindfulness workshops. “A natural context is a really helpful one, it creates a sense of peace which people instinctively respond to”, says Georgia on the introductions to mindfulness courses. These activities and projects have been seen to bring the individuals together, allowing them to step outside their comfort zones and see for themselves the benefits of interconnectedness with both nature and their community.

“Once I heard about the allotment turning up, I just couldn’t resist, I give it a go and it’s been so beneficial it’s unreal. It can be a desolate place when you’re on your own, so having people that actually talk to you and enjoy talking to you and vice versa is fabulous” said Mike, a Southern Brooks volunteer. Loneliness is an epidemic in the UK and projects like these are integral to the well-being of so many individuals, who benefit greatly from their new sense of belonging and connection with nature.

The Green Spaces Projects were initially funded through charitable grants to Southern Brooks and they have in recent years been part of the Green Social Prescribing Pilot – seeking to measure benefits to people’s well-being from being involved in nature connection, to help improve the evidential case for future funding. “As this pilot ends, we are reaching out to the local community to come and share these new Green Spaces sites – the message is that it’s their community space, and we would welcome their guidance as to how they would like them to be used”, says Georgina Green.

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