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Health, People and Forests

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Publication date19/04/2012
Host publicationMaking Sense of Place: Multidisciplinary perspectives
EditorsIan Convery, Gerard Corsane, Peter Davis
Place of PublicationWoodbridge
PublisherThe Boydell Press
Number of pages10
ISBN (electronic)9781846158605
ISBN (print)9781843837077
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Publication series

NameHeritage Matters
PublisherThe Boydell Press


This chapter explores perceptions of health in relation to forests and woodland by reviewing some key elements that emerge in current relevant research literature describing aspects of people’s recreational and working experience of urban and rural forest. Some major theories in health and social research relating to forest and woodland spaces are identified in landscape research, including the concept of therapeutic landscapes, cultural geography, social forestry and environmental psychology. In the last decade, social and health researchers have taken an increasing interest in the concept of urban and rural forests as beneficial recreational and working environments for supporting and maintaining physical and mental health. The empirical and theoretical work in landscape perception and environmental psychology, that gathered pace in the 1970s onwards, is examined in terms of the therapeutic potential of forest spaces for adults and children, as reported by researchers worldwide and encouraged, for example, by European initiatives such as COST Action E39, and nationally by the ‘Forest Schools’ movement in the UK, inspired by the Scandinavian model, that promotes recreational and educational woodland-based activities for children and young people. The contrasting experience of forests as malign and fearful places is also observed as integral to our relationship to forest and woodland, and the chapter explores some of the historical and cultural tensions that challenge the concept of the benign, healthy forest environment, and how these contrasts potentially, may be acknowledged and reconciled through educational and social opportunities.