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Connecting with Nature for Wellbeing

Connecting with Nature for Wellbeing

The positive signs of spring are everywhere now, arriving at the same time as hopeful indications that life can return to something like normal as the lockdown restrictions are carefully lifted. Catching up with family and friends outdoors, enjoying a drink in a pub beer garden or a marquee meal in a local restaurant are all things that we took for granted previously which now seem quite exotic!

Just as pubs and restaurants have had to reinvent themselves in order to re-open, charities and community groups are going through the same process, working out how to re-start activities and safely bring people together. Village halls and community centres are busy with risk assessments and support groups and services are grappling with how to get their activities underway. Our excellent local charity Open Country is holding the first companion cycling sessions since 2019, giving people of all abilities the opportunity to enjoy the freedom and fun of pedalling through our beautiful local countryside.

Over the past year many of us have realised just how important it is to be out and about, whether walking, running and cycling. Research has shown that being outdoors and able to enjoy nature is really good for our wellbeing, and we’ve certainly appreciated various walks in our own neighbourhoods, and noticed wildlife and wild flowers in a way we didn't before.

In 2021 Mental Health Awareness Week, led by the Mental Health Foundation, has nature as the theme. The aim is to inspire more people to connect with nature in new ways, and notice the impact on their mental health. The organisers also want to make the case that access to nature is a mental health and social justice issue as well as an environmental one. 

There are some fantastic charities around the Harrogate District who already embrace these aims and make sure that people facing a wide range of challenges can benefit from connecting with nature. As well as Open Country, based at Harrogate Community House; others examples from a very long list include Horticap in Harrogate, Orb Community Arts and Henshaws Arts and Crafts Centre in Knaresborough and  Ripon Museums Trust and the Ripon Walled Garden in Ripon. Then there are the big players such as RHS Harlow Carr and Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, which as well as being great places to visit provide plenty of opportunities for volunteers to get involved in their stunning locations. Finally there is the myriad of community groups who work so hard to look after local open spaces such as the Pinewoods Conservation Group in Harrogate and Friends of Hell Wath in Ripon. 

If there has been a downside to our expanded love of the outdoors over the last year it is that some people sadly think it's ok to leave their litter behind. The national Keep Britain Tidy charity is now recruiting Litter Heroes to support the Great British Spring Clean which starts on 28 May. 
There’s a Keep Harrogate Tidy Spring Clean and many of our local groups across the district are are already getting involved too so look out for more information locally, or sign up via to find out more about this excellent initiative to show some love for the special places that have helped us all through lockdown.

Don't forget that you can find out more about local community groups and organisations via our online community information directory ‘Where To Turn’.  We also share up to date info on local charity events as well as a wide range of local volunteering opportunities.