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Benefits of Nature on Your Doorstep

9th January 2024
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The dark days of winter can leave people feeling blue, particularly in January after the highs of the festive season. While it can be tempting to cocoon yourself at home and effectively hibernate during the winter months, it may actually be counterproductive. Instead, try to make the most of the winter sun and go outside and soak up some vitamin D.

According to Mental health charity Mind, spending time in nature is proven to boost our mood, increase our physical activity, reduce stress and aid relaxation. As part of our commitment to offering a better way to live we provide green spaces within and close to the new communities we create to support the wellbeing of residents. Read on to discover the benefits of having nature on your doorstep.

Go outdoors

It’s thought that a lack of sunlight may affect our bodies’ ability to produce serotonin, a hormone that affects your mood, appetite and sleep. Spending time outdoors in the sunlight can make you feel better and help regulate sleep cycles.

When we talk about spending time in nature it includes green spaces such as, woodland, hills and forests, as well as blue spaces like rivers, wetlands, and beaches. It also includes urban green and blue space such as parks, canals, community orchards, ponds, trees-lined streets, private gardens, verges and even indoor plants or window boxes.

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In age when so much of our time is spent in front of screens, connecting with nature can help us take time out to reset.

There’s lots of joy to be had from taking time to notice and appreciate our natural surroundings as it reminds us we’re part of something bigger.

The Mental Health Foundation even describes the positive benefits for our mental health of watching nature documentaries on TV, meaning nature is available and accessible to everyone, no matter where you live.

Nature for people

Our biodiversity strategy, Nature for People, recognises the importance of creating, protecting and enhancing nature for people in and around the new homes we’re building.

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In the UK, 41% of species have declined between 1970 and 2016. The 2023 State of Nature report shows the UK to be one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, with nearly 1 in 6 wild species at risk of being lost from Great Britain.

We’re in a position to be able to do something about this and our Nature for People strategy sets out our commitments for our developments under three key themes – nature gains, rewilding lives and a flourishing legacy.

We’re committed to ensuring every new development’s planning application from January 2023 demonstrates an increase in the site’s biodiversity, known as biodiversity net gain.

We’re improving wildlife habitats, providing diverse planting and creating homes for nature. At the same time, we’re encouraging people to spend time outdoors by creating open areas of green space to be enjoyed by residents and the wider community. We also want to help homeowners to make the most of parks, woodlands and play areas in their local area, so where we can we’re improving cycle and footpath links to local community green spaces.

Providing access to good quality open spaces close to home is one of the ways we’re helping to create a better way to live

10 mood-boosting ways to make the most of your local green space

Leading an active lifestyle can improve mental and physical health. Exercise can offer a short-term mood boost and help relieve stress. A brisk walk, gentle jog or run through your neighbourhood with a friend or family member is a good way of getting some fresh air and enjoy the outdoors close to home. If you’re looking for other ways to spend more time outdoors read on.

1. Grow your own fruit and vegetables, either in your garden or on allotment. From planting to watering, weeding and harvesting, there’ll be something to do all year-round. It also provides a functional form of fitness and if you have a glut of a certain crop you can share with neighbours.

2. Take up wildlife or bird watching, either in a local park or from the comfort of your window. All you need is some binoculars. You could even take part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, which takes place January 26-28.

3. Walk with a purpose and litter pick as you go, helping keep your neighbourhood clean and tidy. There may already be a litter picking group in the wider community or you could start your own. Many community councils can provide you with a litter grabber and bags or you can pick one up very affordably.

4. Join a community gardening group and help the neighbourhood blossom. The Royal Horticultural Society website has thousands of Britain in Bloom and It’s Your Neighbourhood groups, and affiliated societies listed on its website with the option to search by location.

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5. Join a tree planting event – look online for events taking place in your local area.

6. Start a book club and meet others to read outdoors or discuss books you’ve enjoyed. Or start a community library / book swap in your local area and set up a reading bench nearby.

7. Join a sports club or get your friends together for a game of cricket or rounders.

8. Join a local landscape art group or take up watercolour painting outdoors on your own.

9. Go for a walk and create a nature bracelet. Children will love picking up fallen leaves and flowers and sticking them to masking tape (sticky side out!) around their wrist.

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10. Picnic with your pals in a local green space. A food flask is a great way to keep food warm and help you beat the chill. Homemade soup, stews or curries are a great option for a winter picnic.

Their habitat, your home

Across our developments, alongside homes for people, we create richly diverse habitats for wildlife.

At Mill Meadows in Sudbrook, South Wales, a bat house was installed to provide a place to roost for bats who’d made the redundant mill buildings we were redeveloping, their home. A bat monitoring programme found that one of the UK’s rarer bat species, the Lesser Horseshoe bat, was breeding in the new bat house – a real boost for the population, which earned the development recognition in the Biodiversity Legacy category of the annual BIG Biodiversity Challenge.

Our Group biodiverisity manager Nicola Johansen said: “This rare and endangered bat is only found in Wales and parts of South-West England following severe population declines. It is fantastic news that we now have a new breeding population at Sudbrook. They had never bred at the mill previously, but ecologists discovered pregnant females and pups. We hope the bat house will provide a nursery for many years to come.”

The new community also includes a large area of public open space with a footpath link to the Wales Coastal Path so residents can enjoy the scenic surroundings of the Severnside area and beyond.

Over at Saxon Brook, in Pinhoe, Devon, we’ve created the UK’s first ever pollinator friendly housing development featuring wildflower planting and an educational bumblebee trail, providing a boost for nation’s declining bumblebee population. The bumblebee trail includes sculptures designed by a local artist, with information boards to guide and educate people about bumblebees and how to encourage them in their own gardens.

We’ve also planted an orchard of 70 fruit trees and created ponds, rain (wetland) gardens, woodland areas and allotments plus new bird and bat boxes, insect ‘hotels’ and barn owl box improvements. A linear park of around 12 hectares is being provided along with footpaths and cycle routes connecting the development to other green spaces in the wider area, with circular walks of 20, 40 and 60 minutes are being created.

In Buckley, North Wales, the newt population tripled in just one year in the new ponds we created at our Heathlands development, which alongside a nine-hectare residential development boasts around the same amount of public green space and nature reserve habitats.

Discover how our energy efficient homes are good for the environment and can help reduce your household bills here.

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