‘Green space’ is shorthand for both vegetated land - parks, community gardens, trees, woodlands and hedges, informal spaces, allotments and food growing sites - and areas of water, such as rivers, canals, lakes and ponds. The definition also includes the sea shore, maintained for the recreation and enjoyment of communities in our villages, towns and cities. ‘Green infrastructure’ describes the network created by all these spaces.
Every bit of green infrastructure provides multiple benefits and can also save us money by:
- Soaking up rainwater and reducing the risk of flooding (see Sustainable Drainage Wales)
- Keeping towns and cities cool during heat waves (see Urban Heat Island )
- Filtering pollution from the air (see BBC Trust Me I’m a Doctor )
- Dampening noise pollution (see 'Environmental noise' on the Welsh Government's site)
- Reducing stress and promoting mental well-being (see the following BBC article: 'Green spaces have lasting positive effect on well-being')
- Providing us with attractive places to keep fit
- Stimulating our children to do better at school (see the Children and Nature Network)
- Supporting all kinds of wildlife, including bees and other pollinators (see the Urban Pollinators Project)
Green spaces in towns and cities
Even in a largely green and rural land like Wales, green spaces in towns and cities are the only way for many of us to experience the health and well-being benefits of the outdoors. Lack of time, money or transport may prevent us from travelling far from where we live or work to enjoy the outdoors. This means that the provision of quality, accessible, local green space is critical in improving our health as a nation.
Helping our partners
Natural Resources Wales’s work on local green spaces is about helping partners, such as local authorities, to plan for, provide and improve their green infrastructure. We do this in the following ways:
- Our Green Space Toolkit helps local authorities plan and improve natural green spaces for people in towns and cities. The Toolkit’s Accessible Natural Green Space Standards enable local authorities to decide if there are enough of the right kind of green spaces, in the right places, to keep their citizens healthy
- One of the ways we will do this is by producing a map which shows local green spaces e.g. Country Parks and Local Nature Reserves, and gives information on how accessible these places are for people, including families and less able visitors. NRW is collecting the information for that map and hopes to make it available to local authorities and other bodies by 2020
- We support the Green Flag Awards, which encourage the best possible management of local green spaces and independently assess how well these are being looked after
Find out where your local nature reserves are
Many local authorities in Wales, in both urban and rural areas, have set up Local Nature Reserves (LNRs). There are a total of 62 throughout the country and they all have natural features that are of special interest to the local area. LNRs include abandoned quarries, redundant canals or disused railway sidings, as well as woodlands, wetlands, heathlands and coasts. They offer opportunities for conservation and education, quiet enjoyment and public appreciation of nature.
Protecting habitats and species
LNRs help protect habitats and species and help forge partnerships between local authorities, nature conservation organisations and local communities. They also raise awareness of local wildlife and are an ideal place for children to learn about nature.
What are the criteria for designation as an LNR?
- By law, only a local authority can set up a Local Nature Reserve
- The site must lie within that local authority area
- The authority must either have a legal interest in the land or have reached an agreement with the owner for the land to be managed as a reserve
You should contact your local authority, or visit their website, to see where your nearest LNR is located.