I grew up in the wide open spaces of rural Wales, surrounded by rolling hills, streams and woodland. For that reason, I know how easy it is to become disconnected from nature when living in a town or city. I think getting outside every day is really important, as is spending time in nature, and I find myself feeling lethargic, claustrophobic or unhappy if I don’t do those things often enough.
Luckily, I have several parks within walking distance of my home. There’s a tiny garden-sized one at the far end of my street and a bigger one just around the corner; the latter has a play area, lots of trees and even a man-made stream. There are also at least two more within easy walking distance.
Just outside the city centre, about a mile from where I live, there’s a vast 57-acre park complete with botanical gardens, a large pond and numerous other attractions. I’m so glad this green space exists to break up the monotonous urban sprawl of roads and buildings. The city would be a poorer place without it.
Admittedly, going to the park isn’t quite the same as going to the countryside, but it’s the next best thing. For me, it’s become almost a form of meditation. For example, a couple of days ago I was feeling very stressed and anxious. It was a sunny evening, so I decided to shut my laptop and take a book to the park.
It was so good to feel the sun on my skin and hear the wind rustling the leaves. There were several noisy kids running around, but I didn’t mind; if anything, it was nice to see them playing outside rather than sitting in front of a screen. I spent more time daydreaming than reading (which often happens!) but that was okay.
My stress soon melted away, and a magical thing happened; I realised the things I’d been fretting over were nowhere near as big a deal as I’d been making them out to be. Being outside in the sun lifted my mood so much that my perspective on things became far more positive, and I began to feel peaceful in the knowledge that everything would be alright.
Since many people don’t have gardens, I think it’s important that everyone has access to green spaces. I was going to say ‘especially kids’, but on reflection, I think it’s just as important for adults. Then again, kids do need safe spaces to run around and play in. Regardless, everyone can benefit from having somewhere to sunbathe, have picnics and feed ducks.
Much as I love parks, most of them aren’t perfect. I wish they were less neatly-mown, for starters; I adore wildflowers and think it’s a terrible shame that they’re so frequently mowed away. In an ideal world, parks would be a haven for wildlife as well as humans; currently, you usually don’t see much beyond the odd songbird or squirrel. Besides, wilder spaces are just nicer as far as I’m concerned. There’s something soulless about a well-manicured lawn!
I’m aware that not all parks are the nicest places to be. It angers me that some people have so little respect for green spaces and those who use them; it’s all too common for people to drop litter on the ground, for instance. And on more than one occasion, someone has sat down at the other end of the bench I’m using and lit up a cigarette – when there were plenty of empty benches they could have chosen instead.
It’s hard for me to understand why people behave with disrespect, but I think it comes down to not valuing or feeling invested in things. For that reason, I really like the idea of community gardens. If people feel a part of something, they’re more likely to treat it well. Maybe therein lies the solution.
I’d like to see some land in cities allowed to return to a more natural state – it would be good for the environment and for people too. Green spaces give an area some breathing room, and in conclusion, we need more of them.
What do you think?