With fewer vehicles on the roads, schools closed and more people cycling and walking for their daily exercise, lockdown has presented a unique opportunity for residents to rediscover the natural beauty of Bridgend county borough.
And as part of a Public Services Board (PSB) project last year looking into the value of green spaces, hundreds of people took part in a survey to explain how their use of open and green spaces had changed during lockdown.
In total 585 people responded to the survey with almost all (97 percent) saying they had appreciated green space more during the lockdown, 93 percent saying green space had helped their mental health, 81 percent saying they were more aware of wildlife and 95 percent saying they would use green space more in future.
Huw Jakeway, Chief Fire Officer of South Wales Fire and Rescue Service and Chair of the PSB Assets Sub Board which organised the survey, said: “We wanted to look at whether open and green spaces were being used differently during the lockdown and what we could learn from this to improve wellbeing in the future.
“The responses show that there has been a significant change in attitudes and that green space has had a positive impact on wellbeing and also has the potential to improve wellbeing in the future.
“We’d like to thank all those who took the time to take part in the survey.”
Cabinet Member for Communities, Cllr Richard Young said: “We were delighted that more people want to get involved in conservation activities with over 240 people requesting further information on volunteering around activities such as litter picking and tree planting.
“These results are feeding into the Bridgend Public Service Board wellbeing plan which helps work on improving green spaces, engaging with volunteers, supporting people who want to have a healthier lifestyle and reinforcing the importance of green spaces in policies.”
Bridgend Public Services Board is a group of public sector and not for profit organisations who work together to create a better Bridgend County Borough. It includes Awen Cultural Trust, Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board, South Wales Fire and Rescue Services, the Bridgend Association of Voluntary Organisations, Natural Resources Wales, the local authority, Bridgend College and South Wales Police. The survey took place last summer.
Work is currently ongoing on several projects in the county borough to enhance conservation work and the experience for visitors at various sites. Over the last 18 months funding of £900,000 has been awarded via the Valleys Regional Park Discovery Gateways initiative to Parc Slip Nature Reserve and Visitor Centre, and Bryngarw County Park.
At Bryngarw Country Park which is run by Awen Cultural Trust on behalf of the council, a £500,000 grant is being used to a number of improvements including a new education centre, a wildlife pond and new facilities to promote active travel. A further £150,000 grant from Welsh Government is going towards the creation of a new sculpture trail, the renewal of boardwalks through the park, installing solar panels on buildings and improving the car park and toilet facilities.
Meanwhile at Parc Slip, the £400,000 grant is being used by The Wildlife Trust to invest in projects which will not only support the vital conservation work carried out on site but also enhance the overall visitor experience.
The local authority is also working on enhancement project plans for two local nature reserves with further details to follow.