Connecting people with nature in Workington: deep dive research on barriers and proposals

Banks, Michele and Loynes, Christopher ORCID logo ORCID: (2023) Connecting people with nature in Workington: deep dive research on barriers and proposals. (Unpublished) Item availability may be restricted.

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The purpose of this research was to gain a greater understanding of current levels of nature connectedness, the barriers, and the successes to accessing local greenspace within the Workington area. This research worked closely with local organisations, community groups and their members. The research was funded by Natural England and contributes to the development of their engagement work in the county. Participants involved in the study were relevant organisations, community groups and local community members at the grassroots level in Workington. The participant focus of the research study was people and groups who are identified as adults, including older individuals, or those having physical/mental health issues. Workington is a town with an industrial history experiencing changes that include a decline and aging of a largely white and working-class population with high indicators of unemployment and health issues. Nevertheless, it is a town with significant civic pride and traditions of community and civic action. It is close to coastal, rural, and upland green spaces including the Lake District National Park yet it is the local green spaces that appear to be most important to the people of the town.

Many of the target demographics for this study value the outdoors, especially locally. There is widespread recognition of the value of nature and outdoor exercise for physical and mental health benefits. Many people are involved in volunteering, community groups or local organisations. A number of these groups show strong indications of sustainability and relevance. These are supported by a range of initiatives led by the Town Council. Housing associations have the potential to be significant contributors to the quality of green spaces. The study revealed a wealth of views on how to sustain and enhance the provision of local green spaces, encourage access to nature further afield, and engage more people in taking up the benefits to people and to nature. These findings are presented under nine themes:
1. Living in Workington
2. Participant’s meaning of nature
3. Current local initiatives
4. Leisure and non-work time
5. Visiting local green spaces
6. Outdoor facilities – what is missing?
7. Opportunities for connection with nature
8. Restrictions to accessing the outdoors
9. Young people

In addition, a range of enablers and barriers were identified along with suggestions for improving the situation. These are summarised in the six sets of recommendations focussed on:
1. Strategy
2. Communication and Education
3. Community Groups
4. Staffing, Volunteers and Leadership
5. Projects
6. Facilities

These suggestions are interrelated and would benefit from strategic oversight and leadership coupled with community-led consultation and initiatives. Opportunities are constrained by funding and other resourcing such as the availability of volunteers. Again, a strategic approach can identify opportunities and deploy resources more effectively as well as ensure that initiatives with the potential for the greatest impact are identified and prioritised. Enhancing local green spaces, amplifying their use across the community, and connecting people with the wider opportunities a little further afield will contribute to community pride, engagement, and health as well as raising the appeal of the town as a place to make a home.

Item Type: Report
Departments: Centre for National Parks and Protected Areas (CNPPA)
Depositing User: Christopher Loynes
Date Deposited: 05 May 2023 15:39
Last Modified: 13 Jan 2024 15:00
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