lottery fund

A Torbay initiative that links personal health with the benefits of trees has been awarded £8000 of lottery funding.

The project, which is thought to be one of the first of its kind in England, involved a number of partner organisations working together to develop the idea, and will see a series of tree focused walks being promoted via a phone app across Brixham, Torquay and Paignton.

Torbay Council, the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, Hi-Line and Treeconomics collaborated on the plan, which is hoped will encourage more Torbay residents to get out in the fresh air while appreciating nature – with a particular focus on trees.

The project has a strong interactive online element, known as an ‘iTree Trail’, which most of the funding will be spent on.

Trees and urban green spaces are the prime examples of natural capital

Neil Coish, Head of Torbay Council’s Natural Environment, explained: “The i-Tree Trail project is about getting people out and about to learn more about their local trees whilst also promoting a fit and healthy lifestyle. This is exercise that fits into 21st century living!  To start, there will be three trails, one in each of Torbay’s towns that will draw attention to local trees. The trails will be linked so that users can build up from a small stroll to a longer excursion around the bay.”

Simon Putt, Principal consultant at Hi-Line, which manages Torbay’s trees, added: “Residents will be encouraged to find out more about their local trees too, perhaps those in their own garden, place of work or street. They can find out how these trees benefit them and will also be able to add them to the online trail.”

Wendy Bull of South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group, has been central to the development of the project: “Supporting patients to gain the knowledge, skills and confidence to self-care will only be realised through innovative approaches like this, which appeal to a broad range of our population. Across Europe, approximately 1 in every 15 deaths is associated with a lack of physical activity. In the UK only one third of the population achieves the recommended level of exercise and the impact of this on our health is estimated to have a direct economic cost of £1 billion pounds every year  Engaging local people in ways that motivate them to maintain healthy lifestyles and set their own goals and targets is crucial.”

In 2011, Torbay was the first place in the country to put a monetary value on its trees using specially designed i-Tree software to estimate that value. By filtering pollutants, storing carbon and improving health and well being, we calculated that Torbay’s trees deliver huge benefits to the community of around £1.5 million every year – this is a natural health service, if you like.

Treeconomics hopes that this project will inspire people to really connect with trees and learn more about them, as they are such important urban resource, as well as being beautiful to look at. We would love to see a long-lasting legacy resulting in Torbay’s fantastic trees being valued in the widest sense by an aware healthy community that looks to plant more trees and communicate the value of trees across Torbay’s towns.

The Torbay tree walk initiative is set to be launched this summer. For more information about this project and how Treeconomics can assist in setting up a similar scheme in your area, please contact us on 01392 249170, email info@treeconomics.co.uk