Public Health Reflections: Parks and Green Space

Throughout my trip across Russia, I was struck by the quality of the parks and green spaces in the large cities.

Zaryadye Park in Moscow, constructed in 2017 stands out particularly, but green spaces and riverside walks in Yekaterinburg, Tyumen and Irkutsk are also noteworthy.

The last couple of days in Ulaanbaatar has really made me miss the scale of green space in the Russian cities.

I’ve been in a couple of tiny pocket parks in the centre of the Mongolian capital and wandered down the green ways between the dual carriageway of traffic.

There are no parks here on the scale that you see in the Russian cities and certainly nothing to rival London’s Regents or Hyde Parks.

Why are parks so important for cities? From a Public Health perspective there are a number of benefits.

For the environment, adding green space to our concrete jungles can reduce the ‘heat island‘ effect and therefore the temperature. Streets and open spaces with trees are cooler than bare concrete.

Greenery is good for our mental wellbeing. There has been significant work on the impact of ‘forest bathing’, in other words, spending time in woodlands, parks and gardens.

This rather wonderful piece of research shows that visits to parks reduce the likelihood of negative comments on Twitter. A solution for dealing with trolls!

And obviously, creating a space for people to walk, cycle, skate including on boards, or scoot is a great way to facilitate physical activity.

The parks I visited in Russia were clearly well used and popular. People gather there to use the facilities and to socialise with friends and family – another benefit for mental wellbeing.

Zaryadye Park, Moscow

Focusing on Zaryadye first, this new central Moscow (on the edge of Red Square) combines a cultural offering as well as simply creating a new natural space in the heart of the city.

The park, built on the site of a Soviet-era hotel, is on the edge of Red Square.

It shows that a huge amount of space is not necessary to create a varied offer. Four types of landscape, representing different regions of Russia have been planted.

There’s a museum, underground and two entertainments arenas – indoors and outdoors.

VDNKh, Moscow

This is probably my favourite green space in Moscow and I discussed it at length in an earlier blog: Days 6 and 7: Moscow’s Birthday.

It’s another green space that combines a learning/cultural offer with green space that, in this case includes formal gardens and fountains.

There is something of a theme to the major parks in Moscow of intellectual improvement as well as enjoyment.

Tretyakov and Riverside Park, Moscow

This is actually the second Tretyakov Gallery, opened recently and the riverside park developed to include sculptures.

The cycling and skating track is undulating so no flat ride here. There is a challenge for the rider. Physical activity is more of a feature of this park than some of the others, though the older city park Gorky and newer (1995) Pobedy have an extensive physical activity offering.

Gorky has sports courts and while at Pobedy, I spotted a group of older women starting their Nordic Walking session.

The Embankment and Plotinka, Yekaterinburg

The river running through the centre of the city creates walkways, cycle ways, skate parks on land and boating opportunities on the water.

The scenery alongside the river obviously creates artistic inspiration as I saw a number of art classes taking place on the Saturday afternoon.

The Plotinka, one of the oldest parts of the city, has long been used as a space for processing with friends and family. While wandering there, it felt very much a space for socialising and seeing others – it’s not a spot for solitary contemplation.

On the day I was there, (Day 14: Love Your Health) it also provided a space for a health and wellbeing fayre, which seemed entirely appropriate.

Embankment, Tyumen

The Embankment in Tyumen is a fairly concrete affair with statues creating the visual variety.

This is a space focused on physical activity (as many of the smaller ‘pocket parks’ in the towns and cities are. There are green gym facilities but this expanse is about walking, running and cycling.

A number of gym classes were taking place as I walked along this path.

Riverside, Irkutsk

The riverside in Irkutsk includes an island in the centre offering an entertainment venue, tennis courts, football courts and places for children to play.

It also offers formal gardens, seating areas (as all of the parks I visited did) and lengthy space for running

As in Tyumen, gym and fitness classes were taking place here, by the Cathedral of the Epiphany and as in Yekaterinburg, it was very much a space for promenading.

All of these spaces are multifunctional. They are all different sizes – even a relatively small Park such as Zaryadye offers climate benefits, as well as the obvious support for mental wellbeing.

Every little helps.

*Featured Photo: Zaryadye Park

Categories: Environment, Mental Health, Nature/Landscapes, Public Health, RussiaTags: , , , , , , , , ,


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