Nature Connection Fund prescribes wild swimming and mindfulness to improve wellbeing in Surrey

From wild swimming to themed walks and mindfulness, seven projects exploring how nature can improve health and wellbeing across the county are to receive £85,000 from a new fund.

The projects will link people with nature-based activities to help communities recover from the pandemic and overcome health inequalities.

The grants are being awarded because Surrey is one of seven “test and learn” sites in England selected as part of the cross-government Green Social Prescribing project to try out ways of improving health and wellbeing through connecting people with nature and green spaces.

The Surrey Heartlands partnership of local health and care organisations, including the county council, secured £500,000 from a £5.8million national pot for a two-year project exploring nature on prescription – linking people with outdoor activities such as community gardening or local guided walks and activities in nature to benefit their wellbeing. Find out more in this project video.

Now the project has set up the Nature Connection Fund to develop schemes and distribute grants to community groups. The grants aim to support communities in need, such as people with dementia and their carers, those with mental health needs and people with learning disabilities.

Groups receiving funding include Run Surrey Hills, which is offering a tutored wild swimming course in the River Wey to introduce people with mental health needs to the benefits of open water swimming. Please stay safe when in and around the water – find advice from the fire service here.

Other recipients include Mindful Ninja, which will run mindfulness courses in local green spaces for teenagers in and around Stanwell, meeting a range of mental health needs. Surrey Minority Ethnic Forum will run a Muslim Women and Girls Eco-Warrior project involving nature-based activities.

Sinead Mooney, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health, said: “Congratulations to all the projects – we’re looking forward to seeing them progress and enable more people to be connected to Surrey’s countryside and green spaces.

“The pandemic brought home the importance of being outdoors to people’s mental wellbeing and now, thanks to the funding that we in Surrey have secured, more of our residents will be able to receive prescriptions for nature-based activities to enhance their quality of life. It’s another example of how we’re working with our health partners and community groups to tackle health inequalities so that no one is left behind.”

These new grants follow last year’s Thriving with Nature Fund which helped Surrey community groups develop innovative projects ranging from community allotments to a sensory walk at a primary school.

Anyone can enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits of nature. Visit the Healthy Surrey website to find out more about nature connectedness for wellbeing, for ideas of where to go and local activities.

The seven projects due to share £84,600 worth of grants from the Nature Connection Fund are:

Sorbus Learning will partner with local community groups in East Surrey, including Surrey Care Trust and Patchworking Garden, to develop a year-long programme of outdoor activities and courses to help with mental and physical health.

Mindful Ninja will run mindfulness courses in Stanwell for teenagers, meeting a range of mental health needs. The courses will take place in local green spaces and incorporate nature.

SMEF (Surrey Minority Ethnic Forum) will run a Muslim Women and Girls Eco Warrior Project with regular activities for residents to connect with nature and learn about environmental issues. The year-long project will include exercise, planting, and arts and crafts work to enhance wellbeing.

Woking Mind will offer residents of Woking and Surrey Heath eight-week courses based around spending time in nature, including structured activities to connect more deeply with green spaces.

Run Surrey Hills will offer a Wild Swimming course in the Woking/Sheerwater area to introduce people with a mental health concern to the benefits of open water swimming, and the skills and knowledge to build confidence.

The Mary Frances Trust will offer online and face-to-face nature workshops and themed walks for people living with mental health concerns. Initial work will also commence on an allotment project and peace garden at the Safe Haven site in Epsom.

Include Project will increase the ‘stroll and sign’ walks that they offer to people with learning disabilities and communication difficulties, as well as producing resources to increase accessible guidance in green spaces in East Surrey.

Find out more information about the Nature Connection Fund Projects.

Notes to editors:

The Green Social Prescribing Test and Learn project is supported by a cross-governmental partnership of Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Department of Health and Social Care, Natural England, NHS England, Public Health England, and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, Sport England and the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP). The funding supports the Green Social Prescribing programme, which is the practice of supporting patients to engage in nature-based activities to enhance wellbeing. If successful, the test and learn sites could be rolled out across the country.

For more information: NHS England » Green social prescribing


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