SOUTH WEST FISHING FOR LIFE

Fishing is not on the top of the list of things to do when you have been through the trauma of breast cancer, and trying to get your life back together again. But as the members of an organisation called Fishing For Life have discovered it is exactly what this group has helped them to do.

South West Fishing For Life

As Jenny, one of the members at Wimbleball on Exmoor, said, ‘’If you had asked me in the summer of 2007 if I would pick up a fishing rod and go fly fishing at the beginning of the next season, the answer would have been categorically NO, but in January 2008 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I thought my life had come to an end. Whilst visiting the Breast Care Clinic at Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton, Somerset, I came across the leaflet advertising Taster Days for fly fishing at Wimbleball Lake for SWFFL, and, with encouragement from my husband, decided to give it a go.

“I know that all the ladies enjoy getting together once a month, when we can forget about our daily routine. It is our time to be in the fresh air, our time to think about ourselves, have a laugh and to know that we can talk about our experiences with others if we want to, and you never know, even come home with a trout or two for supper.’’ Jenny has now become a Level 2 coach so she can give something back as she said as it has helped her move on with her life.

The club’s qualified coaches aim to teach people to fly fish and, in doing so, enhance their well-being as the fishing techniques are beneficial to building up tissues and muscles after surgery. Men make up about 3% of breast cancer victims and are just as welcome to join the groups. The local hospital Musgrove Park breast cancer unit’s nurses and physiotherapist’s have been to the organisation’s days and are very supportive.

There are many physical and psychological benefits of exercise following any illness or operation, and fly fishing has specific benefits for people following breast cancer said a physiotherapist.

  • Movement can improve circulation and any swelling or lymphoedema that may be present.
  • Specific movements involved with casting can improve shoulder strength and stability in an overall ‘safe’ shoulder position.
  • Confidence and body image can be improved by the support network and motivation of a new hobby/sport.
  • Stretches and movements can improve the mobility of any scar tissue that may be present.
  • General mood and wellbeing can be greatly helped by many factors such as the excellent support network that is provided by SWFFL, as well as a reason to be outdoors and socialising.
  • Exercise releases ‘feel good hormones’ called endorphins which in turn improve mood and energy levels.
  • SWFFL provides a network of friends and support to help breast cancer patients with ‘moving on’ and coping with difficult times, as well as the ability to share information and experiences with people who can empathise. Thanks to the generosity of   various waters and all the volunteers these days are free for the members to attend and also provide them with a social and supportive network.

Fishing For Life is not all about fishing but ‘me’ time and a soul-finding time in beautiful locations, back with nature by still waters. If fishing is not really your idea of fun there is always a cup of coffee and plenty of chat and time for a walk. SWFFL always encourage friends and family to support, do their own thing while the members are having fishing instruction and then joining in the refreshments afterwards.

SWFFL was founded in 2008 on Wimbleball Exmoor and has now grown to eight groups: Wimbleball, Somerset, Kennick in Devon, Siblyback in Cornwall, Blagdon in Bristol and the Pennines, Bolton, Dorset, Hawkridge, Spaxton, Somerset and Gloucester/Worcester. As it has grown and moved from the South West the other groups are simply called Fishing For Life.

In time it is hoped that there will be  groups all over England so anyone who has suffered or is living with breast cancer can enjoy what this unique organisation has to offer: support, friendship, ‘me’ time, caring volunteers who listen and lots of fun and laughter!

Please look at the website www.southwestfishingforlife.org.uk for more information.

If you would like to go along to any of the groups or talk to someone please ring Gillian (secretary) 01398 371244 or email holworthyfarm@aol.com.

HEALTHY LIVING FAIR IN MINEHEAD

West Somerset’s Healthy Living Fair is taking place again this autumn after the success of the first event a year ago.

The fair is switching venues this year and will be staged at the Beach Hotel in Minehead on 17 October from 2-4pm. The aim is to encourage people in the district enjoy a better way of life and is being organised by West Somerset Council in partnership with local voluntary sector organisations.

On offer will be a wide range of advice and guidance on how to improve health and wellbeing. There will be complimentary teas and coffees available, free tasters, health checks and a prize draw. Entry is free.

Over 30 stallholders will be present including organisations concerned with health and wellbeing, housing, those involved in outdoor activities and even therapeutic hand massage.

Local people will have the opportunity to find out about a whole range of preventative measures which may be able to help them make improvements to their lifestyle and enjoy a better quality of life.

Cllr Keith Turner, Lead Member for Housing, Health & Wellbeing said:  “Residents will have the chance to find out about how small steps can help prevent illness and enable them to become more active.  There will also be a wealth of opportunities on offer where people may like to consider volunteering to meet people and potentially make new friends.  Alternatively, people can just come and join us for a cup of tea and a chat.”

Sponsors include Public Health England, Somerset County Council, 1610 & Miles Tea & Coffee Merchants, Porlock.

Earlier in the day, the Beach Hotel will host a conference entitled: ‘Let’s make isolation and loneliness history in West Somerset.’ Parishes, towns and communities have been invited to send representatives to learn more about projects and services and to feed into the debate. The event is by invitation only. Any community group wishing to attend this morning event should contact Gail Sloman – E: gksloman@westsomerset.gov.uk or T: 01984 635 208 to check if there are any delegate’s spaces remaining.

Moorland Partnership with the NHS

In a ground-breaking partnership Exmoor National Park Authority is working with the Health and Wellbeing Boards of Devon and Somerset, the first of its kind in England, to demonstrate how access to green space can reduce the need for drug-based interventions or development of long-term conditions.

Andrea Davis, Chairman of Exmoor National Park Authority, and Member Christine Lawrence, have both been instrumental in enabling the project to happen.  “Addressing health and wellbeing at an early stage has huge benefits both for the individual and, in the longer term, reduces the burden on already squeezed health and social care services” said Andrea.  

“National Parks are special places for their landscapes and opportunities for recreation. At the same time as enjoying ourselves, we are also benefiting from our ‘natural’ health service, reducing the need for visits to the GP or admissions to hospital.”

Studies have proved that access to ‘green space’ improves our health and wellbeing.  Whether it’s a simple as a picnic or going for a short walk up to a full on 15 mile ramble or taking part in a 6 hour cycling sportive it’s all to the good.  Taking part in practical projects can also help; tree planting, drystone walling, scrub bashing, wildlife surveys.  All of these activities bring in to contact with the natural environment and other people.

The Moor to Enjoy Project is joint funded for three years and, following a recruitment process, Keeley Rolfe has been appointed Project Coordinator.

The project will enable people who experience mental, emotional and physical health challenges to get involved on Exmoor as part of a programme to improve their health and wellbeing.  It is primarily aimed at reaching communities that would not normally consider visiting Exmoor.  Ultimately, the project will give skills, knowledge and confidence to health and social care professionals and groups to enjoy Exmoor independently without the support of the project officer.