As a retired countryside ranger, Gary Linstead knows the benefits of outdoor green space and he wants others to enjoy it too.

Gary spent 20 years in Glasgow as a ranger for the south of the city.

Improving health and wellbeing in a big city like Glasgow, with its historic issues, is an ongoing challenge.

In Glasgow, however, we have a powerful weapon in our armoury to help people with their physical and mental health.

It is our abundance of parks and green space.

As Gary explains, a lot of the city is green.

He said: “Fundamentally, if you want the Glasgow public to have better health and wellbeing you need to develop their love of green space and the best way is to promote access.

“We have a phenomenal amount of green space, around 20% in the city, including parks and wildlife corridors.”

But he poses the question, are we getting as much from it as we could be?

Gary said: “In this day and age we all like to say we are connected.

“What that usually means today, is connected to the internet or wi-fi but how many of us can say we are connected to our green spaces.”

Easy access to green spaces is, he believes, critical and is something that he has spent a lot of time and effort promoting.

He recognised there is a balance between conservation and allowing it to be used to good effect.

He said: “We need to preserve our green space to have the best biodiversity but we also need to allow access for the public to enjoy it.”

Gary said the highlight of his two decades in the city as a ranger was “without a doubt” devising and being the driving force behind the development and creation of the Magnificent 11 walk.

READ NEXT: I walked Glasgow’s Magnificent 11 and learned a few things

Gary took the Glasgow Times around the 11-mile route and explained how it came about.

Glasgow Times:

He said: “In 2005 I looked at my area map and I could see it had the appearance of a circle around the parks.”

The parks in question were, Linn Park, King’s Park, Castlemilk Park, and Cathkin Braes and he just had to join them up.

He said: “I walked the areas and tried to find connections using the physical desire lines.”

He worked out a route using wildlife corridors and a few necessary short sections through southside communities.

The route, though, is 83% greenspace.

He then had the challenge of getting people involved and getting resources to create a good walkable path and a way-marked route.

He said: “As a ranger, I ran a countryside events diary and so, I started taking people around the route and it got a good response.”

For a project of that scale, however, he needed a wider input and leverage for resources.

Gary said he recognised there was a greater emphasis on health and wellbeing as public policy but at the same time, funding was being cut.

He said: “We helped reform Friends of Linn Park and then Friends of Kings Park, Castlemilk Volunteers Group got involved and Fernbrae Meadows too.”

While trying to create the connections linking the green spaces he said he was making personal connections with the ‘Friends of’ groups.

After years of effort, and banging on doors for resources, he said he lost hope that it could be achieved, until a significant intervention came along.

Gary said: “In 2011 I was giving up. It was too much for me to be strimming the paths and trying to maintain it.

“Then Catherine Watt of Glasgow Ramblers sent an email and asked to see the route.

“She came out with someone from Ramblers Scotland and they were cock-a-hoop and said it was a brilliant walk and it has to be developed.”

The story from then on is Glasgow Ramblers and Friends of Linn Park got funding for the fence posts to allow waymarking along the paths and it finally opened as a recognisable route.

Glasgow Times:

He looks back and pinpoints that as the pivotal moment in his ambition being achieved.

He said: “The Magnificent 11 has been without a doubt the highlight of my 20 years as a countryside ranger.

“You can’t do something like that if you don’t have support and I had that support.

“The biggest input by far was from Glasgow Ramblers and the Friends of groups."

Having now retired, satisfied the route has been established, he wants to see its potential for good realised.

He added:” I want as many people as possible to walk that route.”

“Glasgow is one of the greenest cities in Europe.

“And nothing captures that better than the Magnificent 11.”