Writing in The Herald greenspace scotland Chief Executive Julie Procter tells us why parks are important in her life and how we can all help them thrive

Some people need a cup of tea to start the day, I need my daily dose of greenspace. Every morning, rain or shine, you’ll find me taking a stroll in my local park. It’s the perfect way to start the day – listening to the birdsong, chatting to friends and neighbours, seeing the seasons change and finding much needed headspace in a busy day. 

And I’m not alone: we’re a nation of park lovers. Each year Scots make over 162 million visits to parks and greenspaces. At greenspace scotland, we’ve always talked about parks and greenspaces as our natural health service, our children’s outdoor classrooms, our community and leisure centres without a roof. They are the green heart of our local communities, and we need them now more than ever. They give us breathing spaces where we can take time out from the stresses of our everyday lives, places where we can relax and spend time with family and friends, and spaces where nature can flourish in the heart of our towns and cities. Local greenspaces make a huge contribution to our health, our quality of life and our community spirit. Free to use, open and available to everyone, parks are great community assets, but not everyone has easy access to quality local greenspaces. 

Think about the last time you visited your local park was it with friends, or maybe your children, or perhaps you just took the dog for an evening run around? Maybe it was sunny, or possibly it rained, and perhaps you had a picnic despite the typically Scottish weather! 

Whatever the reason for your visit, it’s all too easy to take these spaces for granted, but they need support, investment and active management. Across Scotland parks are feeling the pinch and they need our help to care for them, so that the generations to come will be able to enjoy these spaces too. 

Many of the urban parks we know and enjoy today were first created by the Victorians in response to poor urban living conditions and to improve public health. Imitating the private greenspaces and lush gardens of the wealthy with their layout and planting, these communal spaces were designed for all to access and enjoy. Often funded through public subscription or gifted by philanthropists, we’re channelling the spirit of our Victorian ancestors as we launch Parks4Life – Scotland’s first ever national endowment fund for parks and greenspaces.  

Just as we benefit today from the Victorian legacy of parks, we want to ensure our precious greenspaces continue to be cherished and nurtured for current and future generations to enjoy. That’s why we’ve launched the Parks4Life campaign with The Herald, with a goal to raise the first one million pounds by the end of 2023.   

As part of the campaign, we have created Park Portraits: a digital photo exhibition bringing to life the stories of a dozen Scottish people and the ways that parks have enriched their lives. The series celebrates people from a wide range of backgrounds and uncovers their special reasons for enjoying parks, like Willie Mungall, a veteran Royal Marine Commando who has improved his health with a weekly walking group in Edinburgh’s Saughton Park as part of the ‘Walk with a Doc’ programme led by Health All Round. Other subjects in the series include Iga, the ‘fire spinner’ learning her craft, a Team Great Britain Paralympian with a pre-competition ritual to clear his head, and three generations of family that visit the park which holds special childhood memories for each of them.  

You can get involved too, by taking your own Park Portrait and sharing your park story at Submit Your Park Portriat or on social media channels using the hashtag #Parks4LifePortraits. We would love to hear how parks are part of your life; how they have supported you or been there for you, or provided your family with valuable quality time, or encouraged you to look after your health and wellbeing, or provided a space to simply get away from it all for a while. 

The beauty of the Parks4Life fund is that it will keep on giving – it is an endowment, meaning it will provide a steady and sustainable source of money to support local communities with grants to support park improvements, host events and activities, and develop projects to ensure these spaces continue to thrive. 

Parks are amazing community assets: free to use, open and available to everyone. Used in a wide variety of ways by people of all ages and backgrounds – for walking, jogging, playing, connecting with nature, picnics and sport, or simply just taking time out of a busy day to sit and watch the world go by. And they are so much more… 

Parks are also places of adventure, magic and memory. I’m sure I’m not the only one with treasured childhood memories of playing in the park – feeding the ducks with my gran, playing hide and seek, making daisy chains, whizzing down the slide…and it’s wonderful to see children today enjoying these same simple pleasures.  

If you love parks and want to help us hand them on in good heart for our children and grandchildren, please consider donating online at Parks4Life fund or by texting PARK to 70450 to make a one-off donation of £5. Even a small donation can make a big difference. Thank you! 

Our parks make our lives better. Let’s help keep them this way. With your support we can help communities bring their parks to life and make the best of our greenspaces for everyone to enjoy now and in the future. 

Check out our online Park Portraits gallery to see how people across Scotland enjoy their local parks and greenspace…be inspired by Iga the fire spinner and Claire dancing in a flash-mob at The Helix, read about the friendships and memories made in the park, and follow in Willie’s footsteps to get your daily dose of health-boosting greenspace. 

And now I think it’s time for a walk in the park! What will you do in your park today? 

First published in The Herald, Wednesday 20 September 2023 Parks4Life: Scotland’s parks need our love and support
Our parks make our lives better. Help keep them this way by donating to Parks4Life, Scotland’s first endowment to support local parks. 

Even a small donation can make a big difference and help us reach the first £1million target.

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