‘It all has a story’: Social Values of Public Realm Urban Nature

Newington Estate

In March 2017, Dr Stephen McConnachie joined Social Life to work on a research project funded by Valuing Nature - an interdisciplinary programme that seeks to improve understanding of the value of nature in both economic and non-economic terms. 

The research findings are available online here.

The aim of the research has been to uncover some of the ways in which patches of public realm urban nature are socially valuable to local people. It started from a premise that natural features of the urban environment have a story, or a social history, attached to them that make them socially meaningful.

The research focused on four estates (Alberta, Newington, Pullens, and Draper) in Walworth, near Elephant & Castle, south of the river Thames in London. As the research unfolded, it became increasingly focused on community greening and gardening projects.

Through discussions with local residents and members of community organisations (including several ‘walking interviews’), as well as attendance at local events, some key themes emerged.

  • the importance of nature and community gardening for bringing people together and fostering a sense of community; 
  • creating a ‘sense of place’; 
  • and questions around who should be responsible for urban nature and how best to involve local communities. 

The findings were exhibited in Social Life’s office during an event at The Unusual Suspects festival, and in an exhibtion at the community hall on the Newington Estate, both in June 2017.