Fresh Ideas in Green Places
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Green. Walk. Enjoy. Nature. Surround. These are a few words the young people of the National Youth Agency’s Future Proof Parks programme used to describe the value of local parks and greenspaces. The Future Proof Parks programme is a partnership initiative between Groundwork, the National Youth Agency and Fields in Trust, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Through the Future Proof Parks programme and other similar initiatives, young people are engaging in their local parks and greenspaces whilst building on skills and experiences that help their social, emotional and educational development and integration into their local community.

We asked young people who are part of the project three questions, to explore the value, ideas and future involvement of young people in parks and local greenspaces.

When asked how they perceive the value of parks and greenspaces, young people’s responses analysed what local parks and greenspaces meant to them, what they did in these spaces, how they made them feel and how important they were to them and others in their community.

Within their answers, the majority focused on the physical and mental health benefits these green, nature spaces brought to them and their communities. They also appreciated how welcoming and optimal these spaces were to them and their friends for meeting up and socialising. In addition, young people valued the outlet greenspaces provided during the COVID-19 restrictions.

What do parks mean to you, how they make you feel and how important are they to you and others?

"Greenspaces are incredibly important to me. Not only do they provide a home to an array of organisms, but they provide a serene place where I can simply go to relax… Greenspaces make me feel calm and help me to escape from the struggles of the world for a while. I feel like I can breathe when I’m in places surrounded by nature. It makes life simpler. It’s nice to be able to just sit and listen to nature sometimes. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have these spaces... They are vital for a community to thrive." Ellen, 19

“Personally, I find parks very relaxing as they provide the wildlife, nature and fresh air that is difficult to get in my city (Bristol). I love plants and greenery so being able to take a walk to the park with my family is very important to me for my physical and mental wellbeing.” Aurora, 17

“To me they make places look a lot nicer than they would without the greenspaces whilst helping wildlife at the same time. I use the spaces to meet up with friends and walk my dog. They make me feel happy that there's places with grass and flowers and trees...They're important to me because without them birds and other insects and animals wouldn't be able to live in cities and could die.” Mason, 14

“…a place to relax, a place to enjoy solitude and a place to enjoy the company of others. It would be hard to imagine not having access to these spaces. I feel like these are places which everyone benefits from...” Max, 17

Benefits to health and wellbeing if I am experiencing stress or anxiety, I take a walk outside and feel calmer and more grounded. I also find experiences in parks and greenspaces refreshing and they give me energy and motivation to carry on with tasks. They are also good for physical exercise and act as social spaces for friends especially with the current restrictions regarding COVID-19 guidelines.” Beatrice, 21


Lydia Allen

Lydia is a Youth Work Specialist on the Youth Work Directorate Team at the National Youth Agency.