Diligent readers will know that “hack” (short for “hackney”) originally meant “horse for hire”.

I’d no intention, when adopting the title, of any involvement with real horses. Indeed, the last time I was on the back of a hoofed mammal was in 1969, aged four at Longleat House. A donkey “race” ended abruptly with my mount deciding halfway round that it was going no further. It lay down in the paddock, trapping my leg and filling my special lucky blue nylon shorts with sand. Not so lucky after all, nor the last time I would feel stymied in my competitive efforts by being allied to a complete ass.

I must have silently vowed to never get on an animal again. But that changed at the weekend, when I found myself £80 the poorer, with the hack family on four real hacks of various sizes heading across a river bed and up a rocky path in Exmoor’s Doone Valley (home of Lorna Doone). This was the first of our deliberate attempts to Continue reading ‘back in the saddle’

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Today’s news from Bath is that it’s wet and windy out there — as is traditional for British Bank Holidays and school vacations. It looks like the walk to the park to play ball with the kids is off. Which is a shame, for more reasons than one.

Environmental psychologists have known for a while that green areas are psychologically good for us, helping us to recover from mental wear and tear. But now the good people at the universities of Sheffield and De Montfort, Leicester have found that some green spaces are better for us than others.

When it comes to urban green spaces, mental health benefits increase with the level of biodiversity, Dr Richard Fuller (Department of Animal & Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield) and colleagues have found. A green area rich in species is better for us than an equally green area with fewer species. And we seem to be pretty good at assessing how many kinds of species live in urban parks, just by looking at the plants.

The researchers point out that the world’s human population is increasingly concentrated in cities, isolated from nature. So perhaps we should now be investing the municipal parks manager with much higher importance. S/he is providing something of more profound human value than just pandering to preferences for busy lizzies or pansies. ;-)

Hat tip to The Situationist for alerting us to this story.

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