Greenspace really is our natural health service and throughout lockdown we were encouraged to get outside for our daily exercise and many people found this really helped their mental health and wellbeing.

As well as informal exercise, leisure and recreation, there are lots of organised outdoor green health activities like health walks and green gyms, as well as therapeutic programmes in greenspace.

Covid-19 has helped us think about how we could make much more use of outside spaces. The waiting room outside at Stobhill Hospital is a wonderful idea which could be replicated at other hospitals, health centres and clinics – and we’re following with interest ideas and plans for GP and healthcare appointments outside.

Download: Health and wellbeing outside Resource Sheet

Featured Projects

Nature Recovery Project - Woodlands Community Garden

In 2010, a vacant site in West Prince’s Street was transformed into Woodlands Community Garden. Although the Garden remained open during the pandemic, the regular communal volunteer sessions were suspended. Knowing how isolated some of the regular volunteers were feeling, and seeing the benefits the garden had brought to its visitors and raised bedders in reducing their stress, this led the group to develop a new initiative, their Nature Recovery Project.

Read more about the project

Inspiring Ideas

Garthdee Field Allotment Association Volunteers

There is no better way to be outside than working an allotment in fresh air and good company.  Being allowed onsite during the Covid-19 Lockdown was a blessing for plotters.  However, they couldn’t host their community groups, schools or volunteers.  So, when restrictions relaxed, they were determined to welcome back their Volunteer Squad with proper distancing, sanitised tools and putting safety first. Their efforts helped win Green Flag status this year, but mostly the plotters enjoyed hearing their laughter ringing around the site.  Community gardens grow not only fruit and veggies, but also wellbeing and togetherness - what could be better?  

 Find out more

GP led group walks – to talk lifestyle

A doctor’s surgery in Cockenzie and Port Seton held a series of six, monthly walks as a group intervention for patients with mild to moderate mental health issues. The walks covered 2 miles, stopping at 5 locations for the GP-led chat about each area of lifestyle change (Relaxation, Eating, Movement, Sleep and Connection), enabling small peer-group walk and talk between stops. The walks were informal and anonymous with confidentiality maintained within the group. GP Dr Peter Churn said “The topics naturally lend themselves to a walk outside; some individuals formed their own weekly walking group which has continued. We knew that being outside would bring benefits, independent of the GP intervention”.

During the pandemic when group walks were not possible Dr Churn produced a video of some of the lifestyle interventions covered in such a walk - watch the video

Mearns & Coastal Healthy Living Network

The charity provides services and activities to older people, supporting them to continue living independently in their own homes. Their outdoor social activity groups enable people to do some gentle physical activity whilst in the company of others, and this has been hugely beneficial, particularly during Covid-19, as many people felt increasingly isolated and lonely as access to facilities was restricted.

The gardening groups care for the planters and flower beds at their train stations and are much appreciated. The Portlethen group, who met for a physically distanced celebration of their nomination, recently won the gold award for ScotRail Adopt-a-Station of the Year!

Find out more

Team space can be private space - Yipworld

Based in Cumnock, Yipworld delivers services to children aged 5 to 25 years living in the south of East Ayrshire.  Youth work, employability support and participation in a wide range of services including mental health services through social prescribing from NHS professionals. 

They adjusted all their services during Covid-19 lockdown - use of precious outdoor space was re-thought, with free bookings of the centre’s MUGA being given to families who did not have suitable outdoor space. “We embed health and wellbeing through our outdoor activities within our MUGA and our bike initiative – so children, young people and their families benefit through exercise, play, sport and cycling/walking.” 

Find out more

The Ridge - Social Inclusion

In response to the challenges being faced by the most vulnerable community members in the Dunbar area, a new, wide open safe space at the derelict Empire Close was occupied during lockdown. The Backlands Garden had already demonstrated site regeneration as a vehicle for personal regeneration.

At a time when people’s anxiety and impacts of near-total isolation were having massive impacts, many people did not have access to garden space. The project mitigates growing paranoia and agoraphobia; economic and social uncertainty brought about by the pandemic and the inevitable harms of Lockdown.

It gives a sense of belonging, of contribution and purpose to those most marginalised and disempowered.

Find out more

Waiting Room in the Park

The New Stobhill Hospital in north Glasgow, was designed with an integrated art, architecture and landscape ethos contributing to the healing environment. Several artists led by the Lead artist and poet Tom Clarke collaborated with the architect, staff and patients. The strategy: A Grove of Larch in a Forest of Birch forms the architectural and landscape concept - open courtyards are planted with larch trees and surfaced with natural larch boarding. The theme of woodland light and shade is continued indoors and found in paintings, video and poetic texts.

The Hospital sits right beside Springburn Park, where a waiting area in the park and bird box walk has been created. The park is entered through a Moon Gate Sculpture at the nearest park entrance to the hospital, encouraging walking (even short distances) as well as connecting the natural themes explored in the hospital artworks to the natural environment of the Park.

Find out more

iThrive Edinburgh

An online space for mental health and wellbeing information for Edinburgh.

It has a dedicated page on greenspaces that encourages Edinburgh’s citizens to embrace the benefits of being outdoors as a way of improving their mental health and wellbeing. This section of the website contains information about local parks and wildlife, factsheets about the connection between nature and mental health, and projects in Edinburgh that incorporate greenspaces in their services.

Visit iThrive’s greenspaces page 

Remember to always check the most recent Scottish Government guidance and advice when planning activities and events outside.

Thanks to The National Lottery Heritage Fund for supporting work on Better outside - using our spaces more