University Mental Health Day 2022: Mental Health and Greenspaces

Photograph of Tarn Hows, Cumbria. Credit: Dave Wilson

University Mental Health Day (UMHD) is an annual event jointly run by the University Mental Health Advisers Network and Student Minds, and is held in universities and other higher education providers in March. Each year UMHD has a theme, and this year looks at how greenspaces impact our mental wellbeing.

Greenspace can mean different things, for different people, but typically greenspace includes the natural space, for example, woods, forests, hills, fells, mountains, etc. as well as urban greenspaces such as parks, gardens, fields, allotments, canals, cemeteries, etc. On a very basic level, it could even include a potted garden plant in a backyard.

Making use of greenspaces can have a beneficial impact on our physical and mental wellbeing.

Evidence shows that living in a greener environment can promote and protect good health, and aid in recovery from illness and help with managing poor health. People who have greater exposure to greenspace have a range of favourable physiological outcomes. Greener environments are also associated with better mental health and wellbeing outcomes including reduced levels of depression, anxiety, and fatigue, and enhance quality of life for both children and adults. Greenspace can help to bind communities together, reduce loneliness, and mitigate the negative effects of air pollution, excessive noise, heat and flooding. Disadvantaged groups appear to gain a larger health benefit and have reduced socioeconomic-related inequalities in health when living in greener communities, so greenspace and a greener urban environment can also be used as an important tool in the drive to build a fairer society.

Public Health England, 2020, p11

So how can you take advantage of greenspace as a student or staff member of the University of Cumbria? Well, it’s easier than you think. There are greenspaces on, or near to all the campuses of the University of Cumbria. Of course, the Ambleside campus is right in the heart of the English Lake District National Park and therefore surrounded by obvious greenspace, with the campus itself having plenty of greenspace of its own. The Lancaster campus is just a stone’s throw away from Williamson’s Park a large Victorian public park, and Scotch Quarry which is a community inspired greenspace. The London campus is close to a number of city parks and cemeteries, including Bartlett Park and Mile End Park. Brampton Road and Fusehill Street campuses in Carlisle have a great relatively short walk between the two campuses that takes you along the River Eden through Rickerby Park. If you are a distance learner or commuter student, look on your local government (e.g. town, city, borough, or country council) website to see what local greenspaces you have near you if you are not that familiar with your local area. Your local greenspace, is a great place to go for a walk (with or without a dog), run/jog, bike ride, or socialise with friends. Even in wet weather, greenspaces are a great place to be, just wrap up! Some greenspaces also include gardening clubs, or conservation groups, where you can meet like-minded people and improve the space for others (humans, and non-humans)!

Mile End Park, London. Photo credit Wikimedia

The University has a range of ways to encourage you to take advantage of greenspaces, such as Green Minds which is a gardening club open to staff and students, and there is also a nature trail. UoCActive has a range of activities including an orienteering course on the Lancaster campus. There is also a University of Cumbria Strava Club, Strava is a physical exercise tracking app with some social media features. The app is free for the basic version, and there are enhanced features for an annual fee. Strava helps you to track any activities such as running, cycling, walking, hiking etc. The UoC Strava Club is a great way to share ideas for new routes etc. or be inspired by other members of the community activities.

Over the next few months, the Live Well Learn Well bloggers will be posting some of their favourite walks near to some of the campuses of the University, so keep a lookout for those in the coming weeks.

To start with here is an easy walk between Brampton Road and Fusehill St campus. Whichever way you go (Brampton Rd to Fusehill St), if you time it right, there is the chance to have a cuppa tea and cake on campus. Taking the walk through the park, will give you 30 minutes to forget about the stresses of everyday life, as your mind is refocused on the sights, sounds and the smell of greenspaces. It might be worth going with friends, or if on your own, why not listen to your favourite podcast or audiobook. On the following route, you should be able to see various native fauna and flora regardless of what time of year you go.

Brampton Road to Fusehill St

This walk sets off from Brampton Road campus, is about 1.5 miles long and take around 30 minutes depending on your pace. Most of the route is on paved or tarmacked paths, with very little elevation. Make sure you wear suitable footwear if you are walking. This route is wheelchair friendly.

  1. As you come out of the main entrance at Brampton Road, crossover the road and turn left. Enter Rickerby Park at the first entrance which takes you down towards the River Eden. Follow the footpath that comes off the lane to the left (or in a south-west direction) towards the war memorial.
  2. At the memorial, head south along the path through a tree lined grove until you come to an iron footbridge. Cross this bridge and walk through the golf club car park.
  3. Turn right onto St Aidan’s Road, and head along there in a south-west direction, crossing over Victoria Place and onto Broad St. Continue on Broad St until you come to the junction with Fusehill St. Fusehill St campus is on your left where you can pop into the Cube on campus for a hot drink and snack.

Photo’s from the above walk taken in early February 2022.

References:

Public Health England, 2022, Improving Access to Greenspace: A New Review for 2020. PHE, London.

One comment

Leave a Reply