19 July 2012

5 Reasons To Visit A Park

Natural England MENE Spatial Report
Reasons to visit a specific place

In December last year Natural England published a report on how people use the greenspaces around them. The powers that be want to see where we go, how far we are prepared to travel and how much money we spend when we get there. For example, although 7% of visits (between 2009 and 2011) were to the coast this type of location accounted for 20% of expenditure. In other words, it costs a lot to go the seaside.

Perhaps not surprisingly given our predominantly urban population, parks were the most popular environment to experience nature. Woodlands and rivers also ranked highly, with mountains and allotments some of the least visited categories.

Analysis of the various reasons given for visiting specific greenspaces revealed dog walking as the main motivator for using them, though this wasn’t the case when going to mountainous areas and beaches. I wonder if that is because if you let your dog off the lead in an unfenced area he’ll just run and run. Overtones of Fenton here, maybe?

Glancing through this report made me think about my own visits to the great outdoors, and I have to admit I too seem to need a concrete reason to go. I don’t have a dog, but do have children, and have used them as a similar excuse. We did visit parks and local woodlands far more when they were younger. I think it’s also true that more ambitious trips to the Lake District and the coast were also done ‘for the children’. Now they are teenagers I can’t use them as cover, which means I don’t go out into the countryside as much. I now have to find my own reasons to don the wellies.

Luckily I have this blog and its insatiable appetite for new posts. As I’ve said before people seem to have to have a purpose to use a park. Somehow there is a feeling that if you go there simply because it’s nice you could be opening yourself up to accusations of indolence.

For fun I had a quick think of the real reasons I have for setting foot in my local park, Fog Lane.

My reasons for visiting my local park
  • Top motivator is the blog, either in the hope something will catch my eye, or to investigate something specific. In the past the park has also been the subject of artwork. And I’m sure we’ve all gone holly robbing at Christmas. So top reason, I suggest, is ‘creative projects’.
  • Not far behind is riding the bike on traffic free paths. When I’m feeling energetic I jump on the bike and do a loop of three local parks, going from one to the other via quiet backstreets. It probably doesn’t qualify as proper exercise – I hardly break sweat at all – but it does feel good to zip along without worrying about lorries and traffic lights. Second reason is then ‘exercise’.
  • Sometimes the park is used more practically as a short cut. In the winter I’ve trudged through snow to get to a friend’s house, and in summer, after spending a day in the city, I’ve got off the bus a couple of stops early and cooled off by ambling home across a field. It’s like a little sip of nature. Third reason: to get from A to B.
  • The last two motives are purely psychological. The park is somewhere to go on those occasions when I’ve run screaming from the house. And then there are times when Curiosity says ‘what’s going on over there?’.

Do you think the way you use greenspaces would be covered by a tickbox in a government survey?