Having ample opportunity for outdoor activity, is widely acknowledged to deliver a range of benefits for both physical and mental health.  Several outdoor activity and learning projects are supported by the ERDF Green Infrastructure Fund, led by Scottish Natural Heritage. 

The Green Infrastructure Strategic Fund aims to improve Scotland’s urban environment by increasing and enhancing greenspace in our towns and cities, especially close to areas of multiple deprivation. This will make these areas much better for our biodiversity and more attractive for people to live and work in, and therefore attract jobs, businesses and further investment.

SNH are currently delivering fourteen capital projects across Scotland that improve or create urban green infrastructure. Several of these projects have space set aside for outdoor play and learning, with two of the projects being recently completed and a further two nearing completion.

Middlefield, Aberdeen

Active play is encouraged in two dedicated areas within what was previously a low-value amenity grassland site. A play zone with a range of structures at the western edge of the site is specifically designed to encourage energetic play which involves balance, movement and excitement.

At the eastern edge of this six-hectare site there is an emphasis on outdoor learning for younger children. This part of the project boasts an educationally focussed play area next to a picnic site. Here, music, counting and flowers stimulate an interest in the outdoors. The Middlefield site itself is neatly situated near the Hub Sports and Community Centre and is criss-crossed by a range of surfaced paths which encourage active travel.

Fernbrae Meadows, South Lanarkshire

Created on the site of the former Blairbeth Golf Course, South Lanarkshire Council’s project provides improved access to greenspace and housing facilities which have outdoor activities as a central theme. The site borders Fernhill, Cathkin and Castlemilk, and includes a network of paths and cycle ways which encourage active travel and leisure, whilst educational visits are rapidly becoming a regular sight at this celebrated project.

All ages benefit. The area has been used for a wide range of outdoor play and learning including an after schools Mucky Boots club which was a play session led by teachers from Cathkin Primary School.  The local Outdoor and Woodland Learning Group (Glasgow OWL group) held a networking event at Fernbrae for local teachers, early years’ staff and forest school leaders which included den building, natural arts and cooking workshops.  Younger children and toddler group enjoyed a ‘free play’ session including the ever-popular mud kitchen and playing in the stream.

Rutherglen High School used the site for its John Muir Award group and contributed to the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch. Allotments meanwhile have been well-used by individual plot holders and there are plans to engage schools in a community growing area. The local Beavers group have also made good use of Fernbrae and enjoyed a mini-beast hunt as part of their My World Outdoors badge.

Moss Heights, Cardonald

Moss Heights is still a work in progress but will feature a specially crafted toddlers’ play area with a range of stimulating installations.  New adventure and natural play areas offer more challenging play for older children.  Traditional sporting favourites haven’t been abandoned either –a grass kick about area is being retained.

St Eunan’s Community Greenspace, West Dunbartonshire

Work is currently underway at St Eunan’s Community Greenspace in Clydebank which includes recreational areas for children and outdoor exercise equipment as well as raised bed allotments.  The new site will incorporate outdoor learning provision.

There is widespread agreement that people benefit from recreational and outdoor opportunities and that multifunctional green infrastructure projects like those above can improve mental and physical health and feelings of well-being, as well as delivering other outcomes such as flood prevention and increasing habitat for biodiversity.  Making our urban greenspaces more attractive for young and old alike, and harnessing educational and recreational opportunities, is a tremendous boost for any community.

You can read more about the ERDF Green Infrastructure projects here