Public uses, preferences and perceptions of urban woodlands in Redditch.
The urban woodlands in Redditch are integral elements of greenspace that are highly valued
as an informal recreational resource, and for the physical and spiritual benefits that the
community derives from visual and physical contact with them, on a daily basis. However,
that they are cherished community assets, rather than places to be avoided, depends on
contextually specific requirements being met, in regard to their siting and design.
The thesis discusses these key criteria from the perspective of the Redditch urban
community. It is identified that a choice of woods should be located within 300 and 700
metres of the home, to enable access by people, including those with restricted home range,
mobility or with limited time to visit, and to provide a moderate walk to woods more distant,
as an integral part of the 'recreational experience'. Convenient access to, and familiarity of
these urban woodlands increases people's confidence to use woods more frequently and
more distant from the home. Woodland size, preferably between 2 to 7 hectares and a good
network of well lit, hard surfaced paths are also important factors influencing the
attractiveness of woodland. Otherwise, visitors' demands regarding woodland type and
facilities are modest. Plantations are as much valued and enjoyed as ancient semi-natural
woodland. However even where the physical requirements for woodland are met, social and
cultural factors limit many people's access to, and uses of the urban woodland.
By exploring the personal, social and cultural values, and interpretations of these woods, the
thesis analyses how the community reacts to change to the woodlands introduced by
woodland management works, and identifies that it ascribes them a plurality of meanings
and contextual relationships; as a woodland garden, a doorstep recreational area, a symbol
of the pastoral idyll, a wildlife sanctuary and a gateway to the natural world.
The theoretical framework of the thesis draws on multi-disciplinary perspectives including;
landscape deslqn, town planning and the social and cultural perspectives of cultural
geography. The evolution of the urban woodlands as elements of urban greenspace,
people's recreational uses, and their attitudes and feelings towards them are explored by
diverse methodological procedures, which include a longitudinal study and use of both
qualitative and quantitative data collection methods.
The research both builds on and adds to the existing body of knowledge by addressing the
value and significance of providing urban woodlands within the urban fabric, and the key
criteria which need to be observed to provide such areas close to where people live, and
close to what they need.