STRANGFORD & LECALE OPEN THE DOOR ON AN INSPIRING FUTURE
Most of us appreciate living in a region famed for its beauty and heritage, but it seems that the benefits could go far beyond the pleasure to be had in admiring a pretty view.
The link between a good environment and health has long been recognised, but many take that concept a stage further, believing that the cure for many of society’s ills is to be found in our heritage, both natural and built.
That concept was explored this week as Parliament Buildings, Stormont played host to an unusual business event. As Strangford and Lecale, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, launched its first major Management Strategy Development Seminar there,the Partnership driving the AONB also brought together local stakeholders and Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, to think creatively about how protecting our heritage could bring diverse dividends: from employment and investment to higher quality foods, more recreational opportunities … and, ultimately, better mental health and happier lives.
Issuing that challenge to examine the links between heritage, health and happiness was international business lecturerand television mentalist, David Meade. Acclaimed across the globe for his skills as a motivational speaker, David is equally passionate about the environment and was happy to use his famous powers of persuasion to encourage others to adopt the same positive stance.
Some of David’s celebrated mind-over-matter demonstrations demonstrated in quirky fashion the truth of the old adage, ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’ and David urged seminar attendees to use those positive experiences to benefit the region.
He said, “Sometimes a task can seem so huge that people feel their personal input will be too small to be of significance, but everyone has a role to play in protecting and celebrating our environment. Our seminar explored the countless opportunities which the superb heritage of this region could offer its inhabitants and visitors in terms of social and economic development for the future. The key task for the communities of Strangford and Lecale lies in ensuring that the region is managed so that those benefits can not only be enjoyed now but can also be harnessed by future generations … and that requires imagination, determination and action from each and every one of us.”
The seminar highlighted scientific evidence of the benefits to health and well being of a positive natural environment, quoting influential research. According to The American Journal of Public Health (2004) there is ‘a reduction of ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) symptoms for those engaging with nature’, while the New York State Human Ecology Study of 2003 found that ‘Green spaces allow children to think more clearly’ and research from Cornell University (2003) indicated that, ‘Life stresses are reduced by exposure to natural settings.’
Reporting on the fruits of recent research amongst the communities who live, work and play in the region, Caroline Nolan, Manager of Strangford & Lecale Partnership, is in no doubt that the area is already much appreciated.
However she adds, “While we are all agreed on the need actively to manage and protect this unique Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, there are inevitably many different – and valid - strands of opinion on how to achieve the best outcomes for the region. Working closely with stakeholders across the local communities, listening to their input and valuing their knowledge and experience is of central importance to all those with a responsibility for managing the area’s heritage and related socio economic benefits.
“Together, we have brought some of the complex issues concerning the future of Strangford & Lecale to Stormont today, an important step in raising the profile of the region’s potential impact on ‘NI plc’. It is only by building informed support that we will both protect and manage the fabulous natural resource of the Strangford & Lecale AONB.”
Photograph: Pictured at the Strangford Lough and Lecale Partnership (SLLP) event at Stormont are (l-r) Frances McCormick, East Down Rural Community Network, and SLLP Advisory Committee member; and Maeve Bell, Royal Yachting Association NI.
Article Courtesy of Future Image