Health and Wellbeing
Health and wellbeing are fundamental to the mission and actions of all four RBGE Gardens.
RBGE provides a vital green space and acts as a hub for community projects. Many of our activities centre around building connections between people, plants and each other, and the physical, emotional and social benefits this generates.
A visit to any one of our four Gardens is an opportunity to relax, recharge and immerse oneself in nature. Visitors can witness a spectacular diversity of plants with highlights changing throughout the year. A keen eye will also spot a variety of native animals making their home in our living plant collections, from insect pollinators to birds, badgers and squirrels. No two visits are the same.
Our Garden in Edinburgh is free to enter and fully accessible, and provides 70 acres of green space within the bustling city. Each of our three regional Gardens hosts a distinct collection of plants to explore thanks to the different climates they experience and the unique landscape they are set in. Both on- and off-site we also run many projects which bring people together and closer to plants to foster inclusive and friendly communities, an appreciation for nature, and an awareness of local and global issues such as food security and climate change. Our Community Engagement programme is highly flexible, allowing interested groups to develop activities with us to meet their individual needs and vision.
Many of our Gardens’ programmes and activities focus directly or indirectly on health and wellbeing:
- Botanic Cottage
The historic Botanic Cottage, once located on Leith Walk, was saved from demolition by a community campaign working with RBGE. It was moved brick by brick to its current spot in our Edinburgh Demonstration Garden. True to its community-powered rescue, the Botanic Cottage today is a public learning and engagement hub hosting a range of activities involving over 5000 people a year.
The Botanic Cottage is home to a fortnightly cook club where participants learn new culinary skills and prepare and enjoy a meal together. The club sees many regulars returning every fortnight, developing friendships and a sense of community. Botanic Cottage Garden Socials are drop-in events on the first Friday of every month for those living with dementia and their families. A different activity is organised each time, from crafting paper flowers to baking crumble. The Botanic Cottage is also regularly used by a wide range of external groups organising their own community-oriented activities.
Those looking to enquire about booking time in the Botanic Cottage should email the RBGE Room Booking Service team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Edible Gardening Project
The Edible Gardening Project sees a wide variety of groups attend weekly meets with our community gardeners and volunteers both to develop their gardening skills and to cultivate a sense of achievement. Every group tends to their own plot in the Demonstration Garden, planting and caring for their own fruit and vegetables as they grow throughout the seasons. Participants even cook together using their harvest once it is ready. Groups delight in spending time working outside with the soil and plants, and connecting with each other every week over the growing season, forming friendships as they pick up tips and techniques for how to grow their own produce.
The Edible Gardening Project benefits over 7000 people a year from many groups, including Garvald Edinburgh (for people with learning disabilities), Edinburgh and Lothians Regional Equality Council, Nari Kallyan Shangho (empowering south Asian women and their families), Move More (for those affected by cancer), and TEENS+ (for young adults with complex communication needs). The project also runs almost 100 ‘Meet the Gardener’ sessions each year, where anyone can ask our community gardeners and volunteers for growing advice. Sessions are themed around topics such as zero waste, soil health, organic gardening and gardening for health and wellbeing.
- The Garden of Tranquillity
Our Garden of Tranquillity offers a calming and engaging experience for those living with dementia and their families. Intricately created by a graduate of our Garden Design Diploma, the recently opened garden is set within our Edinburgh Demonstration Garden, with an official launch being planned for 2021. The garden is an inclusive sensory-based greenspace designed to be dementia friendly. Surfaces are non-slip and non-reflective to prevent falls, and natural boundaries are incorporated to reduce anxiety. Plants in the garden have been specifically selected for their lively appearances, exciting aromas and interesting textures to provide a stimulating sensory experience. Nostalgic planting may also help invigorate memories and create a welcoming environment.
The Garden of Tranquillity is also an educational and inspirational space. A beautiful garden in its own right, it is designed to inspire visitors to make their own gardens more dementia friendly. Medicinal plants are included to exemplify how important plants are to our general health and wellbeing. The garden will also raise awareness of the prevalence of dementia, and of the world-leading dementia research carried out within our own city at the University of Edinburgh.
- Silent Space
All four of our gardens offer a Silent Space, an area welcome to all for quietly enjoying nature. Visitors to a Silent Space are invited to switch off all technology and sit or stroll among the plants and wildlife without speaking. Without distractions or expectations, this experience allows visitors to tune in to nature and enjoy the calm of simply being in a green space.
This nationwide project, which many public gardens take part in, has received fantastic feedback. Getting away from the stresses of everyday life by spending time in nature has clear restorative benefits, and accessible peaceful green spaces are particularly valuable for city-dwellers.
- Short Courses and Schools Programmes
Our diverse Short Courses programme offers many opportunities for learning and connecting with others with similar interests in friendly and inclusive environments. Many of our courses are themselves aimed at enhancing health and wellbeing.
For example, Nordic Walking classes focus on the use of two poles while walking to engage the upper body, which is particularly beneficial for those with knee or back problems. Slow Art for Fast Lives combines mindfulness techniques with learning new painting styles. Schools can also organise collaborative learning programmes covering a variety of topics that utilise our living plant collections. These programmes facilitate active outdoor learning and engage young people with the benefits of spending time in nature.
- Edinburgh Living Landscape
The benefits of urban greening are wide-ranging, from supporting native urban biodiversity to improving public health. Increasing urban green space provides habitat for wildlife such as pollinators. It also acts as a natural filter for air and noise pollution, making the city air cleaner to breathe. Green places are also important for our mental health. They provide an accessible space for gathering socially, as well as for relaxing and connecting with nature.
RBGE is one of several partners in the Edinburgh Living Landscape initiative collaborating to truly integrate nature into the city. The initiative is restoring, expanding and connecting existing green infrastructure in Edinburgh, from green roofs and street trees to urban parks and meadows. Edinburgh Living Landscape projects also work with community groups and policymakers to create brand new urban green spaces and advocate for green infrastructure in new building developments.
- Edinburgh Shoreline
Maintaining a healthy and attractive natural coastline is a key priority for its residents, and is central to our Edinburgh Shoreline project. The Shoreline programme comprises a diversity of activities exploring and invigorating Edinburgh’s 27km of coast. Project staff and volunteers work closely with many local schools, community groups, researchers and artists, to bring the wonders of Edinburgh’s coast to wider attention.
As part of the Shoreline Project, the Granton Hub hosts a Wildflower Nursery where a community of volunteers grow native plants for planting into underutilised coastal green spaces. Local schools and residents also organise beach cleans and workshops exploring topics such as the coast’s marine life. A 2018 exhibition hosted at RBGE, raising awareness for the activities community groups and coastal residents organised, was attended by 40,000 visitors. Edinburgh Shoreline has not only been a successful public engagement project, but has brought together people from a range of ages and occupations and strengthened the sense of community along the coastline.
Granton Hub, site of the Wildflower Nursery, before and after its use in the Edinburgh Shoreline project.
- The Good City
At RBGE we are also investigating health and wellbeing through our research programmes. The Good City project will work with young residents to map the distribution of nature throughout Edinburgh, by sampling their routes to school. This citizen-led map will highlight inequalities in access to nature across the city. The project will also investigate whether young people choose routes that incorporate nature and the reasons why. Young Edinburgh residents will be encouraged to also document the ways in which nature can improve the resilience of the city by mapping features such as localised flooding and tarmac cracks.
The Good City will place young residents front and centre. Participants will be invited to present project findings and provide recommendations for how they would like nature to be incorporated into their city to Edinburgh City Council leaders at the project’s completion. The Good City will start in Edinburgh, but is designed to be replicated anywhere. The aim of this project is therefore to empower young people around the world to collectively advocate for better access to the benefits of nature in the cities in which they live.