Belfast Telegraph

Why our forests can be real stress-buster

By Linda Stewart

Those leafy glades in our woodlands are the perfect antidote to the heat and the dust.

According to the Woodland Trust, studies show that woodlands help people recover from daily stress and access to them help children’s development and overall health.

And if you live in the Moyle area, chances are that you can just stroll down the road to a local wood and escape the rat race.

But if Belfast is your home — then hard luck. Just 1.27% of the city’s population live within walking distance of a woodland, according to new figures released.

Northern Ireland is the poor relation when it comes to woodlands — 7.2% of the population live within easy walking distance of a wood, compared to 15.6% of the UK population.

The report is the latest snapshot of the nation’s woods and the vital role they play in improving people's health and quality of life.

The findings reveal that while the percentage of people in the UK with access to woodland has |increased over the last five |years, there is still a substantial deficit.

The trust is calling on the Government to get behind woodland creation and is appealing to |planners and developers to allow for green space, including woodland, when planning new housing developments.

It estimates that 35,000 hectares of woodland planting would be required in order to meet the trust’s Woodland Access Standard, which aspires that everyone should have access to a wood no less than two hectares in size, within 500 metres of where they live.

Sian Atkinson, conservation team leader at the Woodland Trust and report author, said: “Research shows that access to woodland and other natural green spaces can improve people’s health and well-being.

“The trust believes everyone should have access to woods within easy reach of their homes.”

Physical inactivity is a preventable health risk which affects 60% of the population.

Case studies reveal that proximity to attractive green space encourages long-term outdoor activity.

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