Comment: We connect best with the great outdoors

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THINK for a moment of your favourite places in Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Chances are some of these names will feature on your list – Arthur’s Seat, the Water of Leith, Portobello beach, the Pentland hills, Yellowcraigs. We all have our personal favourites but some spots are so inspirational that they crop up again and again in any conversation along these lines.

We’re certainly blessed in Edinburgh with some of the most spectacular built heritage to be found anywhere in the world, from the Castle on its magnificent rock to the beautiful symmetry of the New Town.

But, despite all that, it is our natural surroundings that tend to provoke our greatest emotional responses. At a very basic level, it is the great outdoors that we connect with best.

The launch today of the Edinburgh Living Landscape project might not seem like an especially important event compared with many other things that are going on.

Its aim of creating more high quality outdoor space in the Capital might even seem insignificant compared with debates about cutting council services and protecting the NHS.

But it is an initiative with the potential to have more lasting impact on life on the Lothians than almost any other being discussed right now.

Creating outdoor spaces that we can treasure right on our doorstep, where we can access and enjoy them day to day, has an immense impact on our quality of life.

It is not just about enjoying the pretty views – although that is worthwhile in itself – and there is plenty of research to say that connecting with nature is good for our mental health.

But whenever we get out into the great outdoors, we get active, and that helps to tackle one of the biggest social problems of today, the so-called obesity 

It is even good for the city economy, because the attractive neighbourhoods they create make it easier to attract the workers that we need to support our successful industries and public 

It is easy to take what we already have for granted. The Water of Leith Walkway, for instance, did not happen by accident, but took great vision and years of work.

The Living Landscape project offers the prospect of creating more beautiful pockets of nature on our doorsteps. We look forward to seeing the results of this imaginative initiative taking shape.