Covid drives huge increase in use of urban greenspace

22 December 2020

Visits to urban greenspace soared during the Covid-19 pandemic, demonstrating the importance of green infrastructure for health and wellbeing.

At just one site, Fernbrae Meadows in South Lanarkshire, visitor numbers rose from 14,947 in June 2019 to 95,697 in July 2020 - an incredible increase of 640%

The site is one of seven to have received a share of more than £15m funding allocated by NatureScot under the first phase of the ERDF Green Infrastructure Fund, which seeks to improve access to greenspace in some of the most deprived communities in Scotland.

Working with partners South Lanarkshire Council the former private golf course at Fernbrae Meadows has been transformed into a new urban park.

The soaring use of the space mirrors research carried out by NatureScot showing a big rise in the number of people visiting the outdoors to enjoy nature this year.

Surveys found a rise in the proportion of people visiting the outdoors at least once a week, from 64% in August 2019 to 71% during the initial lockdown from March to May, and 80% between August and September.

Almost three-quarters (70%) of people felt spending time outdoors in nature this year helped them to de-stress, relax and unwind and 56% agreed that it improved their physical health.

With 83% of Scotland’s population living in towns and cities during periods of restrictions, a spotlight has been shone on the importance of local urban greenspaces.

Green Infrastructure Fund projects across Scotland are helping people living in urban areas to access and benefit from spending more time outdoors in nature.

NatureScot Chief Executive Francesca Osowska said: “In what has been such a difficult year for everyone, it is great to see that so many people were able to make use of vital new urban greenspaces like Fernbrae Meadows.

“The Covid-19 global pandemic has demonstrated as never before how important a nature-rich environment is for everyone.

“At NatureScot we want everyone to have the opportunity to connect with nature close to where they live, and access all the benefits of quality green spaces for both mental and physical wellbeing.

“Our Green Infrastructure Fund is targeting investment to places that need it most and that don’t currently have good access to greenspaces and nature, including some of the most deprived parts of the country.”

Despite a challenging year, Green Infrastructure Fund partnership projects have celebrated a number of successes, with milestones including:

  • Newbattle Abbey College’s Forest College project, supported by the Green Infrastructure Community Engagement Fund, picking up a Nature of Scotland Youth and Education award.

New path works by the RSPB’s Garnock Connections project is facilitating public access to new woodland planted during the lockdown, alongside innovative use of digital tools for mapping local heritage trails and recording wildlife in the project area.