The Covid-19 pandemic has hugely affected communities, isolating people from family, friends and activities that previously supported them. The impact of nature and participation in arts, nature and physical activities on wellbeing has never been so important. In partnership with Stepping into Nature, Active Dorset and Help & Care, we are delivering Nature Buddies: re-connecting to nature through activity, a year-long programme to upskill existing voluntary and community groups to deliver inclusive and creative nature-themed local activities for people who are referred by their Link Workers. Together we are delivering:

  • a series of training sessions around equality and diversity, mental health and dementia awareness
  • taster sessions for community groups with ideas on how to enhance their activities
  • sessions for Link Workers to learn about available local activities and the benefits they have to offer
  • training of 30 volunteer Nature Buddies to help provide access to these activities for people with high anxiety and low levels of confidence

Our aim is to create a social prescribing ‘ecosystem’ across Dorset and BCP Council areas that will continue to function long after the initial project comes to an end.

Nature, Art and Wellbeing Community Fund

As part of this project, January 2022 saw the opening of a Nature, Art and Wellbeing Community Fund. It provided grants to projects which tackle inequalities, enable groups to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of their local area and increase engagement with nature, art and movement. The fund particularly encouraged projects which improve the wellbeing of people living with long term health conditions, learning disabilities, low mental health, long term unemployment, carer roles, accessing day opportunities, or who are from marginalised backgrounds.

The programme encouraged projects to apply which upskill communities, provide inclusive activities, remove barriers to enjoy outdoor spaces and mitigate the effects of the pandemic. Examples include volunteer training, developing new or improving existing arts, nature and physical based activities, purchasing materials like tools, seeds or art materials or contracting specialist help to increase enjoyment of a greenspace.

The Fund was open to Voluntary, Community, Faith, Social Enterprise and Private sector in Dorset Council or Bournemouth Christchurch and Poole areas and was held over two application rounds in spring and early summer of 2022.

Training Sessions

Training Sessions in Mental Health Awareness with Dorset Mind, and Inclusivity and Diversity Training led by Nathalie Sherring were held throughout autumn 2021 and spring 2022, aimed at the voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise sector to upskill community organisations to deliver social prescribing activities in their local area.

Social Prescribing Taster and Networking Sessions were also held in Spring 2022 by ADC Partner Organisation, CoCreate.

Find out more

More information about this project is also available at www.helpandkindness.co.uk/thriving-communities

If you are a Link Worker and would like to find out more and access resources, click here

If you are interested in becoming a Nature Buddy Volunteer you can find out more here

If you are member of a local group from the voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise sector and would like your group to get involved in the project you can find out more here

What is Social Prescribing?

In social prescribing, health professionals such as GPs, refer patients to support in the community, in order to improve their health and wellbeing. Most GP practices now have what’s known as a Link Worker. Link Workers give people time, focusing on ‘what matters to me’ and taking a holistic approach to people’s health and wellbeing. They connect people to community groups and statutory services for practical and emotional support.

The project has been made possible with a grant from the Thriving Communities Fund awarded by The National Academy of Social Prescribing.

photos (c) Steph Aburrow/Stepping Into Nature