Connecting to the sea for our health & wellbeing

11 April 2024

At our Biosphere Partners meeting last March, we had the pleasure to host a talk by Professor Catherine Kelly, author of best-seller book “Blue Spaces: How and Why Water Can Make You Feel Better”. She shared with us ongoing initiatives to improve access to the sea to more audiences for their health & wellbeing, which happens to be the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #3.

The Blue Space Forum is a project by the Environment Agency looking at the lived experience of users of blue space for health and wellbeing through exercise, sport, recreation and mindful engagement. It aims to understand the barriers that exist for some people around accessing blue space and possible ways of addressing these challenges

The Environment Agency has just launched its report, with support from the University of Brighton.

They found that people mostly visit blue spaces to keep healthy and stave off chronic conditions. They find blue spaces calming, restorative and relaxing. These benefits can motivate people to help improve the quality of the blue space by looking after it. That said, there are psychological, health and safety and access barriers to overcome to make the blue spaces more widely accessible: some people may experience anxiety due to their swimming ability or social pressure.

To improve accessibility to blue spaces, health benefits must be prioritised by in organisations’ decisions, and local people consulted to understand the barriers to access, particularly marginalised voices, to create a motivated community to inspire change. Water safety and environmental education are vital in improving access.

Blue Spaces Horizons

The University of Brighton, in collaboration with the Environment Agency hosted a national Blue Space Horizons research and knowledge exchange symposium a few months ago, in Brighton.

Invitees listened to the findings of a series of eight national workshops conducted by the Blue Space Forum on the lived experiences of people who access – or who have difficulty accessing – blue spaces for health and wellbeing and discussed them.

An artist residency

Catherine is also collaborating with The Living Coast and Brighton based art gallery Fabrica to deliver ‘Stream to Sea’, one of our Artist Residencies for this year.


As we are a coastal biosphere with a rich blue space heritage along with important freshwater resources, it is key that we focus on blue space wellbeing for for citizens, for education, for research, for environmental improvement, for business and sustainable tourism.

More workshops will be held on this theme, so please contact us if that’s of interest to you.

Image by Liz Finlayson/Vervate

University of Brighton
Fabrica logo
Environment Agency logo

Melanie David-Durand

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