Helen’s interests lie in people and their everyday use of green and open spaces. This includes issues around designing, planning and managing green and open spaces at different scales. Her research about children’s outdoor environments relates to policy, practice and use and has an increasing focus how this is facilitated or constrained by individuals, structures, organisations and society. Helen is a member of the multidisciplinary Centre for the Study of Childhood and Youth and the Steering Group for the Sheffield Urban Institute.
Having wanted to be a Landscape Architect from an early age, partly influenced by being brought up in the garden village of Bournville, Helen studied Agricultural and Environmental Science at The University of Newcastle Upon Tyne where she was awarded an upper second class degree. She was funded by the Social Science Research Council award to study on the postgraduate course in Landscape Design. Before joining The University of Sheffield in 1992 Helen worked both in and for private practice and the public sector.
Helen’s research focuses on both strategic issues of green and open spaces and people’s relationship with those open spaces in their daily lives. These two strands do not sit alone but often relate to each other. The former has been epitomised by funded research for a range of government departments and national bodies such as the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, CABE Space, Groundwork UK, Natural England and Research in Practice. This work is often policy focused and directed at national and local government and other organisations.
Research and Knowledge Transfer activities about people, and the green and open spaces of their daily lives, has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), the Trade Strategy Board (TSB), the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS).
Within this work there has been a focus on children’s outdoor environments. The term Kit Fence Carpet playground to describe a traditional playground is now used both nationally and internationally (Woolley, 2007, 2008). In addition I have an increasing interest in how adults control or facilitate children’s use of outdoor spaces whether this is skateboarders who may be constrained by social, legal and physical means (Woolley et al., 2011) or children in the post-disaster area of Japan where outdoor space has not been made specifically available to them in the temporary housing areas (Woolley and Kinoshita, in press).