Nature in the City – Can allotments improve the well-being of urban dwellers?

Allotments have been a part of the landscape of British cities since the dawn of the industrial revolution. They allowed rural communities migrating to the city to continue growing some of their own food. Despite many decades of decline since their heyday during World War Two, this tradition continues today and allotments are currently enjoying a renaissance as a new generation is introduced to the benefits of home produce.

Humanity has evolved into living in urban environments in a short period of time which some studies suggest is a factor in increasing levels of mental illness. The ecopsychology lecture given during the A5 module talked about the concept of “biophilia” and how we may possess an innate affinity with nature. As such, some hospitals have used this idea through the use of healing gardens. Therapy through gardening and horticulture is recognised by the medical profession as being beneficial to patient rehabilitation. Furthermore it has been shown that simply having “green spaces” in cities may have an impact on well-being.

Luckily most towns and cities already contain these “green spaces” within their boundaries, namely the allotment. In this essay I am going to investigate the allotment garden to examine the benefits they may have on urban dwellers. I will first look at a brief history of allotments within the context of the urban built environment, look at the concept of biophilia before examining some case studies and papers on the benefits of green areas and allotments.

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