How green spaces have taken on a new significance.
At the risk of misquoting some famous author or playwright, we live in strange times. We need little reminder of the terrible outcomes of the Covid-19 pandemic, and most of us are still scratching our heads, trying to quantify the short, medium and long term consequences of Brexit.
Add to this, perhaps not surprisingly in times of stress, the fact that several long-valued national institutions are under scrutiny the likes of which they will not forget easily, and we could be forgiven for thinking that ‘strange’ times is more of a synonym for bleak or hard.
And yet, one outcome of the last 14 months has been a re-evaluation, a re-assessing, even a remembering, of the positive value of green spaces. There has been a genuine re-awakening of joy in the nature around us, regardless of whether this is rolling acres of farmland or a carefully tended window box.
‘Flee the cities!’
In times of previous plagues and pandemics – the years 541, 1347-53, 1665, 1832-33, 1854, 1894 and 1918-20, to list but a few – those who were able left the cities and sought sanctuary in the countryside.
Today in the UK this has not been so easy or practical. Density of population, a shortage of housing, the cost and upheaval of selling and buying property, and the complexity and interrelated nature of modern life – all have mitigated against most people moving.
Those that have moved, however, have sought homes with gardens and easy access to the countryside. Such is the pressure on rural housing that some pundits are now suggesting a rush back to the city centres where prices remain consequently depressed.
New priorities – forced upon us yet welcome.
Instead of huge shifts in population, however, there has been a genuine bursting forth in our appreciation of woodland, wetland, open green spaces and gardens of all sizes, right down to balconies, window boxes and indoor plants. For those of us in the garden design and landscape industry this has been a real boost.
Yes, it is genuinely heart-warming to know that we can keep staff employed, that order books are full and our services are in demand. But more than this is the knowledge that the things we hold dear, the environments in which we work, are now better appreciated not for what they can do but for what they are.
This is at the heart of a significant change in the way society views the natural world, and it gives hope for a stronger desire to right the ecological wrongs that typify the last 300 years of human activity. Governments can talk policy, but it is only when mass sentiment insists on a green revolution that change will really come.
Defying the odds
Re-claiming the natural world as a source of joy and nurture is no longer a minority privilege. Of course, we can’t all live on a mountain side with clear running streams from which to fish on a lazy afternoon, but more and more people are making positive decisions to make their garden somewhere special. This is not a dream, and demand is high.
And this demand is solid, despite the rising costs (Brexit? Ships in Canals? Covid?) of many of the raw materials needed in our business. Cement has risen in price by 15% in the last year and timber for garden construction by 10%. Deliveries for some materials are taking longer to arrive. With our regular teams fully employed, it is a challenge to recruit and train additional employees.
And still demand is high. Without falling into the complacency trap, this looks like more than a short term fad. Everyone we speak to seems committed to improving their own green spaces. And from that it is a small step for more widespread support for a greener, healthier, better future for us all.
E. Williams Landscapes is a Hampshire based specialist garden design company, expert in creating perfect outdoor spaces. They are 5-Star RHS Chelsea Flower Show Award winners, with many accreditations and a reputation for imaginative designs that complement any context. They have considerable experience in projects of all sizes, in both commercial and residential settings. They’re known for the care they take to achieve outstanding results with gardens which are beautiful, practical and sustainable.