The Mersey Forest's Green Streets programme helps bring urban neighbourhoods together to green their area and feel ownership of the improvements (for example in Ellesmere Port, pictured below). The Forest also supports a network of Friends of the Woodlands groups who care for their local woods and get people involved long-term in their local environment. Among the wider public more than 90% of people surveyed supported having a Community Forest in their area.
"There's more of a community feel, plus it makes the street look wonderful - and people appreciate it." - local resident
In The Mersey Forest 60% of people use their local woodlands – with nearly 20% visiting at least once a week. We're also helping people to explore new places to exercise by providing free maps and directions for walks and cycle rides, with thousands of our 'route packs' downloaded so far.
And the science is clear: creating The Mersey Forest means healthier people. Research in The Lancet has shown that green spaces can help reduce the 'health gap' between rich and poor, with a particularly strong impact on reducing heart disease and strokes.
Researchers at Columbia University have found that children who live in tree-lined streets have lower rates of asthma. In terms of mental health, seeing trees and green spaces improves people's concentration levels and recovery from mental fatigue, reduces occurrences of aggression and domestic violence, and speeds up recovery times from operations.
Good health also boosts the economy, with the annual cost of ill-health calculated at £2 billion for the Liverpool City Region alone. All of this demonstrates that The Mersey Forest represents a vital long-term investment in quality of life.
The Mersey Forest's school grounds improvement programme helps pupils thrive through 'natural play' in a greener school environment. Pupils pick up trowels to take part in the improvements themselves, and learn about wildlife and healthy eating - with children eager to grow their own snacks in their school orchards and growing areas.
"Changing your playground will help children be inventive, instead of bored, have far fewer accidents and feel safer." - Jill Wilkinson, Head Teacher
We have already worked with more than half the schools in the Forest area and now our work is taking on an extra dimension thanks to our Forest Schools programme – which gives children the chance to spend more lesson time in the green outdoors to help reconnect with the natural environment and improve social skills and self-esteem.
Find out how these benefits translate into success stories in your local area.