From routes for active travel to growing healthy, local food in community gardens people in Scotland have been using Bags of Help grants to help greenspaces improve health and wellbeing. Local groups are using their outdoor spaces as a ‘Natural Health Service’, to tackle physical inactivity, mental health issues, health inequalities and improve physical and mental wellbeing.  

Therapeutic benefits

Recovery Across Mental Health (RAMH), Wellbeing Gardening Group based in Paisley used Bags of Help funding to develop its ecotherapy service across three garden spaces. Stephen McLellan, RAMH Chief Executive, commented:

 “Ecotherapy is a crucial approach to recovery as it involves both creativity and physical activity, and we’ve seen that people who take part in our gardening groups really feel the benefits of being outdoors, nurturing and growing living plants.

Therapeutic gardening projects in the community are cropping up across the country in gardens, allotments, schools, forest and hospital grounds and support people of all ages. The projects include:

  • NHS Orkney built in a Sensory Garden & Rehab Garden to their new facility in Kirkwall for dementia patients and visiting public whilst veterans in the Erskine Edinburgh Allotment got set up to enjoy growing fruit, vegetables and herbs for the kitchen at the home.
  • Orchard Primary LCSC Support Group, Wishaw, transformed an empty outdoor space into inclusive Sensory Outdoor Spaces for school children with autism and, further from school grounds, Earthtime For All Ltd, Duffus, equipped their woodland with an Outdoor Kitchen and Forest School for All to explore nature and have fun.
  • Central Scotland Green Network Trust designed and built therapeutic gardens in Dennistoun and East Kilbride, for use by adults with complex and enduring mental health difficulties living in supported accommodation.
  • Flourish House, Glasgow, promoted positive mental health and wellbeing with project From Seed to Plant to Plate for people with long-term mental health problems

Other projects focus on creating spaces to relax in so people can socialise and chill out. Up North Hawthorn Allotments, Inverness, improved an outdoor area, turning it into a Reflective Garden and down south in Dumfries and Galloway, Glentrool and Bargrennan Community Trust developed the Sow it Grow it Eat it Love it project - a combined community growing garden, outdoor classroom and picnic area.

Getting active in greenspace

Lynn Glen Restoration Project - work on pathProjects promoting and supporting outdoor exercise and activity, include communities and schools installing trim trails and mile a day pathways and upgrading paths that not only create places for outdoor exercise but promote environmental volunteering:

  • Cardenden Community Council linked three existing paths and the Core Path Network to create the Pitcairn Circular Paths Route, Fife
  • Water of Leith Conservation Trust Dean Valley Rejuvenation Project volunteers restored the beauty of the Dean Valley, Edinburgh, by renovating open spaces, revealing features, planting a garden, renovating railings, seats and paths.
  • Tighnabruaich District Development Trust volunteers restored the ancient footpath, Bealach Na Caisteal Footpath, Kintyre, to provide a safe off road walking route for the benefit of visitors and residents.
  • Dalry Community Development Hub delivered the Lynn Glen Restoration Project making a local beauty spot accessible to walkers again.
  • The Turriff and Upper Ythan 50+ Walking Group, Walking For Men over 50 and Lanarkshire Additional Support Team’s L.A.S.T Ramblers for young people with additional support needs and their families which improves health and wellbeing and reduces isolation.
  • Local and regional running and walking events and programmes have been supported such as Bressay Parkrun, Shetland, Plean Parkrun, Stirling and Fort William Parkrun all enable weekly 5K runs, jogs or walks to improve physical fitness and get people’s weekends off to a positive start.
  • Regular regional programmes have also been funded such as Step it up Highland by Wick Walking Group and larger events like the Irvine Valley Walking Festival and Moray Walking & Outdoor Festival champion active outdoor recreation to encourage healthy living by offering a wide range of walks and outdoor activities.

Making the great outdoors inclusive for all

Specialist projects have helped to widen access to the outdoors and encourage inclusive activities:

  • West Lothian Riding for the Disabled, Forres, Nairn and District RDA Group and the Argyll Gareloch RDA Branch all benefitted from funding to provide therapeutic horse riding for local young people and adults with a wide range of physical disabilities and learning difficulties.
  • Strathspey Visually Impaired Group help people with sight loss gain access to outdoor activities in their local community and within The Cairngorms National Park, reducing their social isolation and improving their independence.
  • Glen Art, Renfrewshire have used funding for two projects to bring veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder together with volunteers and dogs to reduce isolation.

And lastly if that wasn't enough for you here are some links to some to project case studies that encourage and help to promote health and wellbeing:

David Dunn Memorial Trail

The Cyrenians Community Garden 

Love the Lade

Garthdee Outdoor Classroom Shelter 

St Francis Xavier's Primary School - Transforming Our Play

Argyll and Bute Third Sector Interface - Gerriactivity