The grass isn’t greener for everyone: why access to green space matters

Couple on path

Being able to walk in nature-filled green spaces, whether in towns, cities or the countryside, makes people happier and healthier. But the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that access to nature is unequal, and our report, The grass isn’t greener for everyone: why access to green space mattersuncovers the sharp disparity between those who have easy access to green space and those who don’t.

 

The grass isn’t greener for everyone: why access to green space matters

For many, walking provided a much-needed sense of freedom following the COVID-19 outbreak, helping us to stay healthy and boost our wellbeing during difficult times. During lockdown, more of us than ever hit weekly targets for physical activity, with walking being the most popular form of physical activity – and we intend to keep it up. In fact, our research indicates that we plan to walk more in future than we did before the pandemic, whether it’s to get from A to B, to socialise, for fun or to boost our health and wellbeing.

However, we did not experience lockdown equally. Evidence has long-shown that poor access to green space is bad for our health – physically and mentally – and that it widens the gap in health outcomes between the richest and poorest in society. But COVID-19 brought the personal cost into sharp focus. The value of being able to go for a walk, connect with nature and de-stress hit home. Access to green space meant having somewhere to take the kids, exercise, hear the birds and feel part of the local community.

The key findings from our report are that:

  • Green spaces are important to almost everyone, with the top reason being that they are a good place to walk (78%), and people are planning to walk more when COVID-19 restrictions have ended.
  • Two thirds (65%) of GB adults reported that being able to access green space in their local area has always been important to them, with an additional one in five adults (19%) saying that green space in their local area is more important to them now than before the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Only 57% of GB adults questioned said that they lived within five minutes’ walk of green space, be it a local park, nearby field or canal path. That figure fell to just 39% for people from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) background and 46% among all GB adults with a household income of under £15,000 (compared to 63% of those with a household income over £35,000 and 70% over £70,000).

Read the full report >

 

It’s time for change.

 

We believe that everyone, everywhere should have easy access to high quality green space close to where they live (defined as within a five-minute walk from home). The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how important that is to our health and happiness and how urgently we need to address gaps in access to green space. The Environment Bill, currently in parliament, is an opportunity to make this happen. The Bill will require government to set targets that help to protect the environment and restore nature. But it misses an opportunity when it comes to reconnecting people to nature.

 

We’re calling on government to guarantee that no one lives more than five minutes’ walk from green space, by requiring national targets for access to nature under the Environment Bill.

 

Ask your MP to support the Ramblers’ call for the Bill to require a national target that guarantees no one lives more than a five minute walk from green space.

 

Walking in nature makes us healthier and happier, and we all deserve to experience that. With a donation to the Ramblers, you'll help ensure everyone, everywhere can easily access green spaces.