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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2014, 11(6), 6171-6192; doi:10.3390/ijerph110606171

Engaging with Peri-Urban Woodlands in England: The Contribution to People’s Health and Well-Being and Implications for Future Management

1,* , 1,†
and
2,†
1
Forest Research, Centre for Ecosystems, Society and Biosecurity, Alice Holt Lodge, Farnham, Surrey GU10 4LH, UK
2
Forest Research, Northern Research Station, Roslin, Midlothian EH25 9SY, UK
These authors contributed equally to this work.
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 25 March 2014 / Revised: 21 May 2014 / Accepted: 31 May 2014 / Published: 12 June 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Benefits of Nature)
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Abstract

In this paper we engage with debates concerning people and their contact with the natural environment as part of everyday life drawing on Irwin’s ideas of co-construction and Gibson’s theory of affordances. We focus on peri-urban woodlands in England as important places where people can interact with nature for health and well-being. Qualitative data were collected in situ via walks in the woods, focus group discussions and photo elicitation, with a sample of 49 people. These methods provide rich data on the wide range of meanings associated with woodlands that can have a perceived impact on people’s health and well-being. The findings link to contemporary debates about health, well-being and ecosystem services. We explore the inter-play between attributes of the physical environment and the range of facilities provided to enable access, social interactions and the benefits people attribute to their woodland experiences. We conclude that peri-urban woodlands can clearly contribute to self-reported health and well-being in multiple ways, and that organized activities can be important for those who face barriers to accessing woodlands. A strong message emerging from the research is the opportunity afforded by woodlands for social connections with others, as well as the provision of a range of sensory benefits and opportunities to observe and enjoy seasonal change in woodlands. Mental restoration via connection with nature also emerged as important, confirming previous research. View Full-Text
Keywords: peri-urban woodland; trees; led and organized activities; affordances; cultural ecosystem services; restoration; co-construction peri-urban woodland; trees; led and organized activities; affordances; cultural ecosystem services; restoration; co-construction
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

O'Brien, L.; Morris, J.; Stewart, A. Engaging with Peri-Urban Woodlands in England: The Contribution to People’s Health and Well-Being and Implications for Future Management. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2014, 11, 6171-6192.

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