Jon Ross, Founder of Sow the City, reports on the development of the organisation’s new Green Health Walk at Prestwich Hospital in Bury. Sow the City provides nature-based activities and horticultural therapy.
In 1984, environmental psychologist Roger Ulrich published a study showing that patients recovering from surgery with a view of nature recovered quicker than patients looking at a brick building wall. The research revealed that the natural environment shapes us as individuals to such a degree that simply viewing it is good for a person’s health. Since then, a limited but growing body of research has found that living in areas with more greenspace translates to a longer life, higher levels of self-rated health and mental health, and lower levels of stress. The studies have profound implications for urban planning, architecture and population health.
In 2019, Sow the City approached Greater Manchester Mental Health Trust (GMMH) to develop a project to design and construct a new Green Health Walk at Prestwich Hospital – a marked walking route for visitors, staff and service users to enjoy the hospital grounds. The objective: to utilise environmental psychology to enhance the healing environment and provide opportunities for exercise, learning and socialising. Sow the City co-designed the route with service users and staff to develop the ideas and align the project with the needs of hospital users. We also undertook ecological surveys and found a variety of bat species on site including common pipistrelle, long-eared bat and other species recorded nearby. The habitat survey revealed semi-natural deciduous woodland – with vast ecological important to invertebrates, birds and mammals.
In March 2020, the construction of the walk was completed by Sow the City staff and volunteers from the hospital: a new 20 minute walk through the grounds with seven new ‘stations’ to visit including a heritage orchard, allotment, herb bed, natural sculpture, bird and bat habitat boxes, and native woodland. As well as having providing link points for the health walk, these stations each give out their own benefits to the hospital such as produce for the hospital cafe, new habitat for wildlife, and climate change mitigation. Maps are now available for people to navigate the route. Sow the City is speaking to other hospitals and healthcare facilities to see if the model can be replicated.
Head to the Sow the City website to find out more about the Green Health Walk.
Jon Ross is the Founder and a Director of Sow the City. Having founded Sow the City with just a few bags of compost in 2009, he has now established a new community centre and home for Sow the City in Moss Side called the Boiler House.