Somerset Nature Connections

Nature and Wellbeing

Somerset Nature Connections

Matt Sweeting

Somerset Nature Connections

Somerset Nature Connections project aims to tackle some of the barriers that prevent people experiencing the health and wellbeing benefits of Somerset’s spectacular natural environment. Somerset Nature Connections will help people to access these natural spaces, with a focus on supporting mental wellbeing and physical activity.

Funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, the partnership project with the Somerset Wildlife Trust, Mendip Hills, Quantock Hills and Blackdown Hills AONBs (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) will support local communities and individuals most vulnerable to mental health issues, providing better access to nature spaces to encourage and increase self-management for individuals, and develop a network of skilled volunteers who can support communities for the longer term.

WildNet - Matthew Roberts

FREE Nature and Wellbeing Course in the Quantocks AONB

This 6 week course will be running weekly on a Tuesday from 2nd November until 7th December from 10am until 2.30pm. Sessions will be held at The Woodland Play Centre, Crowcombe. 

We'll explore the 5 Pathways to Nature Connectedness; these are: contact, beauty, emotion, compassion and meaning. 

This course is for you if you are feeling socially isolated and/or are experiencing mild to moderate depression, low mood, anxiety or stress. All activities have been fully Covid risk assessed and group sizes will be limited.

Email to book your place

Young woman enjoys being outside in the sun, sat in a meadow

Young woman enjoys being outside in the sun, sat in a meadow - Matthew Roberts

FREE Nature and Wellbeing Course in the Mendips AONB

This 6 week course will be running weekly on a Wednesday from 3rd November until 8th December from 10am until 2.30pm. Sessions will be held at A Patch Wilder, Shipham Rd, Winscombe BS25 1RQ. 

We'll explore the 5 Pathways to Nature Connectedness; these are: contact, beauty, emotion, compassion and meaning. 

This course is for you if you are feeling socially isolated and/or are experiencing mild to moderate depression, low mood, anxiety or stress. All activities have been fully Covid risk assessed and group sizes will be limited. 

Email to book your place

Man looking through binoculars

WildNet - Matthew Roberts

FREE Nature and Wellbeing Course in the Blackdowns AONB

This 6 week course will be running weekly on a Thursday from 4th November until 9th December from 10am until 2.30pm. Sessions will be held at Park Farm, Voxmoor, Wellington TA21 9NP

We'll explore the 5 Pathways to Nature Connectedness; these are: contact, beauty, emotion, compassion and meaning. 

This course is for you if you are feeling socially isolated and/or are experiencing mild to moderate depression, low mood, anxiety or stress. All activities have been fully Covid risk assessed and group sizes will be limited. 

Email to book your place

Key project activity

Nature and Wellbeing Self-Care Course

Following mental health support training by MIND in Somerset, project officers will run a small group programme in outdoor locations to build people’s capacity to more effectively self-manage their mental health. Our sessions will build on the Five Pathways to Nature Connectedness: contact, beauty, emotion, compassion and meaning.

Each year, Somerset Nature Connections will run six, 18-week programmes, delivered in 6-week blocks. People experiencing mental health issues will be referred by health and wellbeing partners or self-refer. Each week, participants will attend for half a day, benefitting from practical, outdoor activities, including conservation tasks, wildlife walks and natural crafts, adapted to the needs of each group. Participants will work together in small groups, for mutual support and to enable longer-term relationships to develop. Each 18-week programme will have 6 attendees (obviously Covid-19 dependant).

Recruit and train 30 participants as volunteers

To maximise programme accessibility, we will recruit and train 30 participants as volunteers. Some will provide peer support to those who are more severely isolated and need extra help to attend our activities and to support subsequent access to other volunteering opportunities beyond their involvement in our project sessions. To ensure volunteers have the necessary skills they will receive peer support training provided by Chard WATCH.

Others will volunteer to help and support local community groups or existing volunteer groups. The project will support volunteers to gain qualifications to supporting them to lead activities beyond the three years of the project.

Upskilling and improving confidence of Community Groups

Alongside the 18-week programmes, we will work with existing local community groups, supporting people with, or at higher risk of developing mental health problems. These may include working with groups supporting adults with learning disabilities, those with long term health conditions, carers and isolated older people.

At each group, Project Officers will work alongside group leaders to provide a structured, purposeful outdoor programme of sessions to improve people’s ability to self-manage their mental health, adapted to participants’ needs. Sessions will cover the health and wellbeing benefits of local natural environments and health and safety practicalities, as well as outdoor activities. In addition to reducing the chances of people developing mental health issues, this will increase group leaders’ knowledge and skills to deliver outdoor wellbeing-enhancing activities in future years, with help and support from one of Somerset Nature Connections’ volunteers, if needed.

Somerset Film

FAQ's - Nature and Wellbeing Self-Care Course

Who is the course for?

The course is for people are experiencing mild to moderate mental ill health.  Our sessions are available to both those who have a mental health diagnosis, and those who do not.

Are the sessions run on a drop-in basis?

This is a 6-week course and so is not available as a drop-in service.

Can people join a group straight away and start counting their six weeks from then?

We have set start dates for each cycle of 6 weeks. We do this so that the group can get to know each other.

Do people have to attend a taster day before they start?

We ask people to come along to a taster day so that they can meet the group and get a better idea of whether or not the course might be for them. We understand that it is not always possible to attend a taster day, in which case we try to arrange another opportunity for you to come and meet the team.

Can people do one six-week block?

We encourage people to complete all 3 cycles of the 6-week course, 18 weeks in total, but understand if circumstances mean that only one course/block is attended.

If people come to all 18 sessions, will they cover the same things?

We have designed three different, 6-week cycles, so there is always something new to learn and enjoy.

Is transport available?

Mini-bus transport may be available from a local town. Please discuss this with our project officers to find out if this service is available in your area.  

What should I bring?

You will need to bring a packed lunch and drink. You will also need to wear suitable outdoor clothing, bringing waterproofs and a sunscreen/hat in hot weather.

What about COVID?

All our sessions and activities are fully COVID risk assessed. Most of our sessions will take place outside, but we ask that every participant bring a mask in case we need to move inside. However, we will have supplies of masks and hand gel for use if you forget.

Get in touch

Find out more about the project and get in touch with the Somerset Nature Connections team by emailing snc@somersetwildlife.org

Meet the Team

Mhairi, Joanna, Hermione
Mhairi

Mhairi has joined the Nature Connections team as the Mendips AONB Project Officer after spending 4 years as a Project Officer on Avon Wildlife Trust’s Wellbeing with Nature project. She is really grateful to be able to continue sharing her passion for nature with people. She believes that a key way we are going to inspire behaviour change and nature recovery is through projects like these, that aim to deeply and emotionally connect people to nature so that they go on to protect it. Previous her role at Avon Wildlife Trust, Mhairi worked as a horticulture and gardening teacher for adults with learning difficulties and/or disabilities and for students at risk of becoming NEET. Being out in nature gives her a great sense of freedom, calmness and sense of belonging. She does a lot of walking, camping and wild swimming. She also has an allotment which is full of wildlife and enjoys doing natural and heritage crafts such as weaving and knitting.

Joanna

Joanna holds a strong belief in the power of nature to heal and uplift the human spirit, alongside a dedication to playing her part in meeting the environmental challenges we currently all face. She has a background in social work, community engagement and  NHS mental health which she weaves with longstanding interests in yoga, nutrition, deep ecology, mythology and poetry.

Joanna has lived most of her life in Somerset and loves its vibrant, diverse beauty. She is delighted  to join the Nature Connections team, working as a Project Officer on the Blackdowns and Quantocks. She looks forward to contributing her skills, learning more and fostering closer connections to the land, trees, flora, fauna and inhabitants.

Joanna has recently been developing her interest in foraging and can often be found in wild places, basket in hand - Linden blossom tea and Hawthorn Honey being some of this year’s favourites.

Hermione

Hermione began her career working as a healthcare professional with experience working across both the NHS and private sector. Pursuing her passion for conservation she then retrained with Dorset Wildlife Trust and became involved in various land-based projects including a local Forest School. Hermione is interested in the interface between human health and wellbeing, and the health and wellbeing of the natural environment. She is working as a Somerset Nature Connections Project Officer, delivering wellbeing projects on the Blackdown and Quantock AONBs. Hermione enjoys spending time connecting with nature, botanising, learning traditional crafts. and tending to her wildlife garden and allotment.

More information

This project will work with communities affected by high levels of deprivation and social isolation. Due to the scale of the project it will look to target those communities where the activities will have greatest positive impact. The project will link these communities with greenspace, both local to them and also to the high value natural environment in the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

It is envisaged that the AONB teams will work with their ‘local’ urban communities for example Quantock Hills AONB will work with communities from Priorswood, Hamp and Sydenham.

The project will be working closely with mental health charities Mind and Chard WATCH. Significant funding has been received from Hinkley Point C Community Impact Mitigation (CIM) Fund and Somerset County Council. Further financial support from other funders is currently being finalised.

Somerset Nature Connections logos