The power of green space

One of the winners of the 2012 Octavia Hill Awards, Matt Smith, writes about why green spaces matter to him and the power of green space to change people’s lives

I love green space. It’s a welcome break from work and study in central Liverpool, and always offers me something new. I’m lucky enough to have the National Trust’s Formby Pinewoods local to me, just north of the city, and love introducing friends that are visiting to spot red squirrels in a venture through the woods, or a coastal walk on our stunning dunes. Particularly as a biology student interested in animas and environment, I find this hidden gem a wonderful asset from an academic perspective, but also an ideal place to break away from my urban home and enjoy the great, green outdoors.

A fair bit of my time is spent outdoors, or at least planning my next adventure, and I try my best to inspire others, particularly young people, by showing them the benefits of natural environments. Taking groups on day walks or mini expeditions are very powerful, particularly for some young people who have never travelled outside of their city, a game of rounders and a picnic always helps too! My favourite project was running an after school club in my old primary school in Bootle, a town just north of Liverpool with unfortunately high unemployment and crime. To tackle vandalism and generate a bit of pride in their community, the self declared “Eco-Warriors” assessed their school’s environment and built a sensory garden for all of the pupils to enjoy, from toddlers to pre-teens. They gained an accreditation along the way, and the much anticipated bug hunt with our local Park Rangers was a particular highlight.

Winning the Inspirational Hero Award came as a massive shock, particularly against other nominees undertaking such impactful work in their communities. It’s wonderful to be recognised for the “work” I do, but I don’t think of it as work and only do so much for the enjoyment in exploring green spaces and introducing them to others. I look forward to working with community leaders in the near future, showing them new ways to empower and educate young people, and especially working with my youth groups in Liverpool.

Matt Smith is one of the judges in the 2013 Octavia Hill Awards.  You can find out more about how you nominate people and organisations and details of the four categories at: You can follow Matt Smith on twitter at

Click on and scroll down to ‘Inpsirational Hero’ to find out more about Matt Smith and the work that he is involved with.


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