Set up in 1997, ‘The Friends of Bluebell Woods’ which operates in conjunction with the hospital arts department, Promoting Arts In Aintree (PARTIA) works to improve and conserve the site. In 2015 an all ability path and access gate was installed, providing everybody with easy access to this beautiful community space. In 2017 group members have increased to about 20 and a variety of external groups help on a regular basis from corporate groups to a young offenders programme.
Bluebell Woods is the mixed woodland area owned by Aintree University Hospital and forms part of Fazakerley Woods and Fields Local Nature Reserve. A haven for dog walkers and naturalists with a high wildlife value, it is one the best sites in the city for biodiversity and includes an Arboretum of over 50 varieties of trees. This is the nearest woodland site for several miles around.
The project aims to get the local and hospital communities out into the woodland to enjoy it, become more active and remain active. The wood is located near several medical facilities which provide care and specialist treatment for dementia sufferers. These include a doctor's surgery, a hospice, three hospitals and a care home specialising in mental and dementia problems. The group promotes the use of the woods to these facilities and to the local community.
In the past we have concentrated on the community and the woods. We now feel we should expand to other areas open to us eg. Dementia and mental health. The benefit of using a green space to improve mental and physical health is well documented. in recent years, a mass of evidence has been accumulated showing how greenspace and woodland promote physical, psychological and social wellbeing. The wood is like a drop-in surgery where you never need an appointment and you always leave feeling better. Research shows that open spaces save the NHS more than £111 million /year and deliver £34 billion of health benefits/year, staving off dementia, dulling loneliness, improving memory, reducing obesity and averting type 2 diabetes.Other benefits are improvement of respiratory disease and restricted mobility. Woodlands stimulate all the senses: sound, smell and touch.
By maintaining and improving the woods, through our 'woodland workout' sessions, it makes it more accessible and user friendly for local residents, patients, family members, carers and staff.
The aim is to pursue; health, education, well-being and art activities, enabling different social and cultural groups from the community to fully enjoy and use the woods. Funding is required to:
Replace missing and decayed trees.
Erect signage around the woods to advertise and promote activities.
Encourage people make use of the peaceful surroundings.
Purchase tools for the upkeep of the woods.
Provide travel expenses for volunteers.
The project aims to be ‘Community Owned’ in the near future. There are partners available to supply advice on management which include Lancashire Wildlife Trust and Mersey Forest. There is a management plan which provides an overall objective until 2025 which includes having a paid woodland guide. The future for the woodland is to become a haven of nature within the urban community providing a tranquil and multi-usable space for the community and medical facilities to use all year around. This in turn gets people out and active as per the government’s initiative to ‘get moving’.
In summary :-
• Bluebell Woods is a valued local resource enjoyed by lots of people from around Merseyside and beyond which promotes health and well-being.
• The woods needs to be maintained and improved in order to meet the needs of the people who use it and to help flora and fauna to thrive.
• To meet our targets we need funding to buy equipment and signage to maintain the wood and also to publicise it.