Ford Watch … for Science!

September 23, 2021
low water at ford

One of the nice things about having a blog is the occasional random query you get, sometimes about using one of my photos (I think my high point was when Which Garden magazine printed my picture of a mouse nibbled beetroot), sometimes pitching ridiculously unsuitable guest posts, very rarely* offering me stuff to try, and just occasionally inviting me to take part in some Actual Science.

Yesterday was the turn of the science as I received this enquiry:

I am a second year PhD student at the University of Stirling studying the importance of freshwater environments for promoting health and wellbeing across the Scottish Population. I came across your fab blog and writing and wondered with your interest in the outdoors if you might be interested in taking part in my freshwater diary project.

The aim of the diary project I’m currently organising is to assess how the mental health and wellbeing outcomes associated with accessing freshwater environments might vary over time with changing seasons. Currently, there is a large evidence base detailing the importance of accessing green spaces like parks and woodlands, for reducing stress levels and promoting greater levels of wellbeing. However, less research has focused on the effect of accessing freshwater environments and so my PhD is looking to address this.

The project is running over the course of a year and I am recruiting participants at three monthly intervals to complete a three month freshwater diary. The diaries include a range of tick box questions to assess how calm/relaxed you feel after visiting a freshwater area and also include short questions about your visit. Participants can decide whether they’d like a paper booklet version or would prefer to complete a digital one. Each entry will probably take between 5 and 10 minutes. It’ll only involve writing up to 3 short diary entries per week after visiting a freshwater area. However, it is also fine to take a flexible approach and for instance write two entries per month or whatever suits. Any level of participation in the project is really appreciated! There will also be the opportunity to contribute to an online group photo album and share photos of inland waters in Scotland.

All data will be anonymised in the research process using ID codes rather than participant’s names. The overall idea of the diary is so that we can track how exposure to inland blue spaces can influence mental health outcomes over time – for instance do they consistently lift people’s moods or do other factors have a stronger influence on people’s overall mood.

The next phase of the diaries will start in mid-October so if you would like to take part I can get back in touch closer to the time to arrange sending you a diary to fill in. It’d be great to have you involved but no worries if you’re too busy with work and other projects at the moment!

Anyway, it struck me that since we moved and no longer had easy access to the ford, my interaction with bodies of fresh water has been somewhat limited. And I’m about to go into a super stressful period as we run up to Pedal on COP, so even though I clearly don’t need a new project in my life, it will be a pretty good test of whether something has a calming effect or not. And besides, how often do you get to just go and spend time by a lake, river or, indeed, ford and call it science (I haven’t read the small print or not so I’m not sure whether the ford actually counts, but I like to think it will)?

Anyway, the researcher in question is still looking for participants so if you’re resident in Scotland and interested in taking part, you can get in touch with her here.

Everyone else, have another gratuitous photo of the ford:

ford level

I feel better already …

* by which I mean once.