This Sunday afternoon, in the west end of Glasgow, there will be a connecting children with nature event which sounds like music to my ears. I hardly know where to start, and I’ve been waiting for a while to write about this.
So let’s start at the beginning. There is this unused green space in the middle of a densely populated area of the city, in North Kelvinside, at the edge of affluent and a very much not affluent area of Glasgow. I know the area well. The land had been allowed to degenerate into a dumping ground, but a community initiative put their heads together in 2008 and cleared the rubbish and made it into a piece of nature, wilderness and beauty.
However, a planning application has been received. The residents, in a consultation which yielded an impressive 94% of feedback want to keep this space as a green space, for the community. But it’s in an area which will be attractive to housing developers so the fear is that the land will be sold off and flats will be built in an already densely populated area of Glasgow. It would mean the loss of a truly natural space, lots of trees and an exceptional flora.
The North Kelvin Meadow Campaign is trying to retain this green space for the community. The Children’s Wood runs a playgroup which meets weekly in the space and offers nature connections for children and parents, whatever the weather. There are regular events for children, the space is used in such creative ways that it makes you wonder how there can be justification to take it away and dump another set of flats on top of it.
This Sunday afternoon, there will be an event for children and adults with talks, activities, stalls and a second hand outdoor clothing sale which will do so many things: raise awareness of the issues, tell people about this beautiful piece of nature in the middle of the city, get kids and parents outdoors and connecting with nature. There will be forest education activities and talks about why outdoor and nature play is so important for our children’s wellbeing and their resilience. How this is particularly important in an ever increasing materialistic mindset, where happiness is connected with what one owns rather than personal strengths.
This campaign is about the simple pleasures, community spirit but also about the bigger picture. The UK has the shocking child well-being statistics, considering it’s a rich country. Most experts put this down to inequalities in the society, a bigger gap between rich and poor and the materialistic outlook this creates. Spending time in nature is a remedy because it doesn’t take toys or gadgets to play. It’s about being creative with what’s there, and playing together. These are life skills that don’t depend on money and possessions, but on people and resourcefulness.
I’m not one to vilify computer games and TVs. We play computer games and we watch TV. But there are many children who don’t play outdoors ever, who do not have access to green spaces. New research has shown that children who do not access nature will lose the ability to use time spent outdoors as a remedy for depression and feeling low when they are adults. Not providing access to outdoor play will create a generation of unhappy people, which is why it’s so important. Particularly in times of recession and lack of material means, it’s important to look for solutions that make do with less. Outdoor and nature play is not just making do with less. Far from it. It enables children to gain so much: resilience, co-operation, well-being so that we have a generation of future adults who have health minds and bodies and who can overcome challenges creatively with others.
All of this through nature play, imagine. All of this on your doorstep in a small community green space.
And they really want to make it into flats? C’mon!