Woodland as a setting for housing-appreciation and fear and the contribution to residential...
- Topic: Greenspace
Most urban dwellers need signs of caring human intervention in their immediate residential environment, in the form of cultivation of private gardens, overtly decorative public plantings and intensive landscape maintenance.
Jorgensen, A., Hitchmough, J., & Dunnett, N. (2007). Woodland as a setting for housing-appreciation and fear and the contribution to residential satisfaction and place identity in Warrington New Town, UK. Landscape and Urban Planning, 79(3-4), 273–287.
This study evaluates “woodland in the ecological style” as a setting for contemporary housing by means of a case study of Birchwood, Warrington New Town, UK, using a postal questionnaire and semi-structured interviews to reveal residents’ perceptions of the aesthetic and safety aspects of the woodland, together with its underlying meanings. Kaplan (2001) found that apartment dwellers preferred views of dense woodland in the middle distance to views of more manicured landscapes and built development. Furthermore, different types of nature played different roles in how residents felt about their locality: landscaped settings (trees amid the smooth texture of lawns) predicted “Neighbourhood Satisfaction” whereas less managed nature scenes (dense woodland) were important to “Nature Satisfaction”. Kaplan and Austin (2004) have also found forest in the locality of owner-occupied rural housing in the USA to be a significant predictor of satisfaction with nature, community and peacefulness, whereas gardens, as opposed to landscaped settings, were predictive of community. Nevertheless, taken together, these findings suggest that people prefer well-cared for landscapes in the immediate vicinity of their homes (whether they be communal landscaped settings or private gardens); but also have a need for wilder green spaces, including woodland, close by in their local area. Coles and Bussey (2000) found that Redditch urban-dwellers’ woodland visits had both stress-relieving and spiritual properties; and that they invested the woodland with meanings and functions including woodland garden, doorstep recreational area, symbol of the pastoral idyll, wildlife sanctuary and gateway to the natural world. Other recurrent themes associated with woodland are sensory and emotional experiences (Burgess, 1995; MacNaghten and Urry, 2000; Ward Thompson et al., 2004); a means of escape from worldly pressures and emotional self-regulation (MacNaghten and Urry, 2000; Ward Thompson et al., 2004); opportunities for children to discover the woodland (Burgess, 1995) and for “safe danger” (Burgess et al., 1988); and links with childhood experience (MacNaghten and Urry, 2000; Ward Thompson et al., 2004).
Most Birchwood residents liked the visual appearance of their street, though they had both positive and negative feelings towards its “trees and greenery”. Woodland in the local area figured prominently amongst the residents’ favourite places though some feared that they would be the victims of physical or sexual assault, or of robbery or intimidation from groups of young people in the woodland, and women felt particularly vulnerable. Whilst the woodland was significant for many residents it was not strongly identified with Birchwood as a place: the quality of the community as symbolised by the behaviour of local individuals, community groups and institutions was regarded as a more otent measure of local identity. Colourful and well-tended landscape interventions had the ability to act as signs of a caring community. The contribution of these findings to theoretical frameworks of residential satisfaction, restorative experiences and place identity is discussed: it is suggested, that whilst signs of individual and collective care in the landscape contribute to communal place identity, individual experiences of wilder urban green spaces, including those of a restorative nature, are formative of individual place attachment. The implications for planning, design and management with ecological woodland are explored: urban dwellers should be able to choose their preferred way of interacting with the woodland, residential settings should accommodate a wide variety of user needs, and the vegetation on and around the streetscape should be proactively managed in consultation with the community. CONCLUSIONS Practical outcomes: The findings confirm that most urban dwellers need signs of caring human intervention in their immediate residential environment, in the form of cultivation of private gardens, overtly decorative public plantings and intensive landscape maintenance. However, they also suggest that many urban dwellers have an equally pressing need for accessible wilderness-like areas of green space close to where they live. Where tree and shrub planting is used to structure and ornament spaces on residential streets within future developments, sensitive design is essential both to accommodate the full range of user needs and to secure the longevity of plantings. Trees and vegetation in private gardens are liable to be removed; therefore permanent plantings should be confined to public areas, either on the street, where there is sufficient space after other user requirements have been met, or within adjacent greenspaces (e.g. local parks and green corridors).
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