Category Archives: health and wellbeing


Syrian refugees were among those to benefit from a ground-breaking five-year project to boost people’s health and wellbeing, by breaking down barriers to them enjoying time outdoors in National Parks. Research shows that spending time in green spaces can measurably improve people’s mental and physical health, raising the prospect that so-called ‘green prescribing’ could one day become part of mainstream medicine.

Khaled and Duaa recently moved near Exmoor National Park with their three children, having previously lived in Jordan and, before that, Syria. They visited Exmoor National Park for the first time through the Moor to Enjoy Project*, a five-year collaboration between Exmoor National Park Authority and Somerset and Devon Public Health, to help connect local groups with nature.

Carol Bryant from Taunton Welcomes Refugees, who have been supporting the family since their move, translated what the trip to Exmoor meant to them. She said: “What stood out for them was the sea – the children were seeing it for the first time having previously been in landlocked Jordan – and the animals. They saw cows, sheep and Exmoor ponies. Khaled was a farmer in Syria and loves the countryside. He said the scenery was lovely. They also visited the mill at Dunster and Khaled said how much he’d like to return with the whole family and visit the castle, so the trip triggered an interest in returning to the area.”

Lucy McQuillan, Exmoor National Park project coordinator for Moor to Enjoy, said: “It’s been an absolute pleasure to lead this project and see first-hand the amazing impact that time outdoors in the company of others can have for people going through some truly difficult times.

“It may seem like a small thing, but these kinds of connections can make a huge difference to people’s lives. Through Moor to Enjoy, I’m pleased to say we’ve helped over 1,000 people from 40 different groups with different challenges, spanning homelessness, drug and alcohol problems, visual impairment, mental health issues and dementia. It’s been truly humbling.”

*Funding for the Moor to Enjoy project ended in 2018, but the National Park are always happy to advise groups and there may still be opportunities to access support and funding through other programmes. Contact Tim Braund for information.

PHOTO: The Abdulnabi family at a Taunton Welcomes Refugees event, where the Moor to Enjoy project was recognised for its outstanding contribution to refugee resettlement.


This May will once again be known as Naturally Healthy Month, as Active Devon and Public Health at Somerset County Council coordinate the Naturally Healthy Campaign on behalf of the Devon and Somerset Local Nature Partnership.

Building on the success of Devon’s previous campaigns, and with the help of Somerset Wildlife Trust and Somerset’s Areas of Outstanding Nature Beauty, this will be Somerset’s first year in the programme, and it is hoped that it will be as successful as it has been for Devon in previous years.

Throughout the month of May, participating organisations will be offering a wide range of activities, events and chances to celebrate their local ‘wild’ outdoor spaces, landscapes and environments and improve their sense of health and wellbeing. There will be something for people of all ages and abilities; from nature art and outdoor volunteering, to wildlife and singing walks– with a particular emphasis on supporting individuals who are less physically active, suffer with mental health issues or who feel isolated.

Nature and Wellbeing Manager, Jolyon Chesworth from Somerset Wildlife Trust, had this to say: “People connecting with nature is more important now than ever before as worrying declines in our physical and mental health are reported on a regular basis; only 20% of children get the recommended levels of exercise, and rates of depression amongst teenagers have increased by 70%. Adults don’t fare any better. However, realising that we are a part of the natural world and embracing it can help turn these trends around. Somerset Wildlife Trust is committed to giving communities and individuals the opportunities to engage with their local wildlife in order to reap the benefits to their health and wellbeing and that is why the Trust is taking part in Naturally Healthy Month and encouraging everyone else to do the same.”

Health Promotion Manager, Louise Finnis from Public Health at Somerset County Council, said, “Naturally Healthy Month is aiming to showcase many of the wonderful opportunities that exist in Somerset to have a really good day out  that leaves you feeling good from the inside out. We hope that through getting involved in Naturally Healthy month events, people will be reminded or introduced to all the benefits that getting closer to the natural world can bring. There is a need to bridge the gap between the natural environment, health care and community engagement. Working together we can try to remove barriers that prevent engagement and enable more people to promote their health and wellbeing easily and at lower cost.”

Jim Hardcastle from Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty said, “Our countryside gives us ‘landscapes for life’.  We know a visit to the countryside improves our mood and helps us to become more active. In Somerset we have three nationally protected Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty: the Mendip Hills, the Quantock Hills and the Blackdowns. We’re proud to play a part in Naturally Health Month and help people live life through these landscapes.”

The month of activities takes place during May and events are listed here:

and here: