'Sense of place' is one of our Healthy New Town priority themes. We know that so-called 'place attachment' is good for people's wellbeing. Place attachment is very much about having positive experiences of where you live, often to do with nature or history, and also to do with contact with people (and Connectivity is, of course, one of our other HNT themes).
As well as place attachment and social networks, we know that access to nature is great for people's health. Most of the evidence is about 'green space' and its health benefits (parks, gardens, street trees etc). More recent research has looked at 'blue space' and found that this can be even better for our health. So far, this is mainly about the sea and oceans. At Barking Riverside, we want to find out more about the potential health benefits of access to a river as well. For example, residents have told us that they want more peaceful places to help them relax and be calm. We think that an attractive and accessible riverside could be important for local people's mental health.
Developing a sense of place can be difficult in a new town, and when new residents are coming together for the first time. However, Barking Riverside does have a history and also some great natural assets. This weekend, ThamesFest, in conjunction with Totally Thames and Silk Road, celebrates London's great river's past and present - as a working waterway as well as a place of enjoyment.
Look out for us and our partners from Sustrans, Living Streets and University College London at the Rivergate Centre on Saturday. We are collaborating on a range of activities to encourage people to be more active in their everyday lives, find out more about the place they live - and enjoy the river. We are calling on everyone to help us design a community mural, which will complement the Nature Garden, which shows how you imagine Barking Riverside in the future.
Author: Catherine Max, IKEN Associates. To read more from Catherine, why not visit her Sense of Place themed blog and the importance of access to blue space to health and wellbeing.