Nature-based project scoops national award

27 January 2020

Cheshire West and Chester Council's Natural Health Service has won the national award for Best Nature Based Public Health Project, sponsored by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Cheshire's Natural Health Service, which is funded by Cheshire West and Chester Council and managed by The Mersey Forest, uses the county's green spaces to keep residents healthy. The project has been running since 2017 and has helped to tackle local health inequalities within the borough, with nearly 3,000 participants taking part so far in group walking, mindfulness, horticulture therapy, healthy conservation and bushcraft. All these activities have taken place in the great outdoors across west Cheshire.

The 12-week block sessions aimed at both adults and children, are tailored to residents with particular needs or health conditions, or those in recovery. The results from residents who have taken part in the project have shown significant increases in levels of physical and mental wellbeing.

Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council and Cabinet Member for Wellbeing, Cllr Louise Gittins, adds: "This is a fantastic project and it's great news that the Natural Health Service has been recognised nationally with this award.

"We want all residents, from all works of life to be able to improve their health and wellbeing. Just a short walk in the lovely green spaces we have across the borough can have a huge positive impact on an individual's wellbeing. Take time out with family and friends for a leisurely stroll or cycle.

"This announcement also coincides with Health and Wellbeing week, with lots of activities taking place throughout this week."

Neston resident, Sandra Williams attended the Mindful Contact with Nature course and has definitely seen the benefits, adding: "I enjoy the outdoors more and pay more attention to the smaller details in nature. Whilst I’m walking, I use the breathing techniques, that I learnt on the course, on a regular basis and feel more relaxed and less stressed."

Programme Manager for the Natural Health Service and winner of the award, Clare Olver, said "It's fantastic to win this award, which recognises how contact with the natural environment keeps us well.

"Over the past 25 years, the Mersey Forest Partnership has been planting trees across the borough and beyond and helping to manage our woodlands knowing these green spaces are great places to help improve our overall physical and mental health.

"Our work has been seen as "leading edge" and "ground breaking", and our aspiration is to have the Natural Health Service available across Cheshire West to all communities, throughout the year."

Health and Wellbeing Week is taking place this week (27 January - 1 February) and you can find out more about key activities taking place and how to get involved. The Natural Health Service highlights the importance of the environment and the benefits it can provide to our residents. It supports the Council's Climate Emergency agenda as it continues to work with partners, businesses and communities to develop a borough-wide response to tackle the Climate Emergency.

The UK Public Health Register run the Innovation in Public Health awards annually to recognise achievements across the UK with health professionals showcasing their success in innovative research, education and practice.

Left to right: Sandra, Cllr Gittins, Clare Olver
Left to right: Sandra, Cllr Gittins, Clare Olver

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