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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA

I have never felt more in need of and grateful to mother nature

I am so lucky to share a large, beautiful garden and enjoy views of the Pennines.

Social isolation and working from home have led to me spending more time walking in the garden, enjoying the transformations brought about by Spring, and looking across to Blackstone Edge, appreciating the ever-changing hues. Time at home that previously would have been filled with reading, watching televised sport, or listening to music, with the occasional glance out of the window. The lockdown has led to me rekindling my love of the outdoors and all that mother nature provides for us.

Isabelle Hardman in her recently published The National Health Service: What The Great Outdoors Can Do For Your Mind makes an impassioned case for integrating nature and outdoor exercise into mental health treatment. She notes that there are signs that this may be happening: in 2018 NHS Doctors in Shetland began offering ‘nature prescriptions’. Alongside the usual medicinal offers, the doctors gave patients with debilitating physical and mental health problems instructions such as ‘really look at lichen’ or ‘step outside – be still for three minutes’.

In recent years the NHS has encouraged social prescribing, which is when doctors help patients connect to community groups, art and fitness classes or social services.

Isabelle Hardman documents a plethora of charities, voluntary groups and NHS-funded programmes that are encouraging those with mental illnesses to reconnect with nature, through activities such as gardening or forest walking or park runs. These projects are helping people rebuild their lives, still their darkest thoughts or find a new way of engaging with the world.

We have an excellent example on our doorstep with Stubbylee Community Greenhouses, an eco-focused people-centred social enterprise where they ‘aim to help people and plants to flourish’. At Stubbylee Community Greenhouses they have created an environment where all people of East Lancashire are given the opportunity to engage with a life transformative environment. Practical help, a helping hand and human connection enable them to find and develop their skills and grow personally. They support the local community with a particular focus on rehabilitation for individuals who have physical or mental ill health or have long term unemployment issues.

They run the gardens as organically as possible on basic permaculture principles which mean that they recycle, reuse and reclaim what they can. Their committed volunteers and beneficiaries work daily to maintain their vegetable beds, herb gardens and flower beds. All produce is then shared out amongst volunteers by way of a thank you for all their hard work.

Stubbylee Community Greenhouses, Stubbylee Lane, Bacup , OL13 0DD

Phone 01706 872111

We might all be happier and healthier if we could spend more time connecting with mother nature.

As Isabelle Hardman says, ‘Nature can make a life made grey by mental illness seem rich again.’

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