Category Archives: wildlife trusts

Somerset Wildlife Trust: Somerset Nature Connections project

Somerset Nature Connections is a new partnership project being run by Somerset Wildlife Trust, the Mendip Hills and the Quantock Hills and Blackdown Hills AONBs (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty).

Funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, it will support local communities and individuals most  vulnerable to mental health issues, providing better access to nature spaces to encourage and increase self-management for individuals, and develop a network of skilled volunteers who can support communities for the longer term.

The project will also work be working closely with mental health charities Mind and Chard WATCH. Significant funding has also been received from Hinkley Point C Community Impact Mitigation (CIM) Fund and Somerset County Council. Jim Hardcastle, Mendip Hills AONB Manager, said, “Somerset is blessed in having three AONBs that can be used as a ‘natural health service’ for the community. The combination of the AONB teams and Somerset Wildlife Trust working together for the benefit of the community in Somerset is really powerful and will have a long-lasting legacy.”

Jolyon Chesworth, Head of Engagement at Somerset Wildlife Trust, says: “There are individuals and communities in Somerset who stand to benefit hugely from time spent in natural spaces, but access is often limited. It’s vital that we support people and communities in need in these particularly challenging times, and that we do something positive and long term to empower particularly vulnerable people or groups to connect with the project so they don’t feel isolated and alone, and can meet people in a safe, supported, nature-based environment to self-manage their mental health.”

The project will run a targeted programme delivered in six-week blocks at various locations across the county for people experiencing poor mental health. The programme will include practical outdoor activities, including conservation tasks, wildlife walks and natural crafts, adapted to the meet the specific needs of each group in order to help them connect with nature. Volunteers will be recruited and trained to provide peer support to those who may need extra help to attend activities and to access mainstream nature volunteer groups. Others will volunteer to provide health and wellbeing support at local community groups. The project will work with local community groups and support staff working with people with a higher risk of experiencing mental health problems. This may include people with learning disabilities, long term health conditions, carers and isolated older people. As part of this, the project will increase group leaders’ knowledge and skills to deliver outdoor wellbeing-enhancing activities.

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Photo by Matt Sweeting


Somerset Festival of Nature is a new annual event which aims to focus on celebrating Somerset’s natural environment, its enduring and stunning landscapes and seascapes, its vibrant green spaces and inspiring natural places, and all the rich and diverse wildlife that lives in this wonderful county.

Modelled on kindred festivals across the UK, the Somerset Festival of Nature has the same shared ambition – to find as many ways as possible to put people of all ages back in touch with nature and, most importantly, in doing so, help us all recognise and appreciate its value in our lives as well and the role we must all play in securing our environment for the future.

The aim for the festival in 2018 is to firmly plant the seed for one key event in the year where we all give ourselves the perfect excuse to get outdoors and, as a county, celebrate our wildlife and natural places in Somerset. This year, this date is Saturday 5th May and will take place at Fyne Court in Broomfield . For the entire day all the participating organizations will come together to offer the public the chance to get involved in lots of brilliant nature-based activities from pond-dipping and den-building to guided walks.

Whilst there is one key event on this date, the Festival will also provide information about a whole host of other events that are taking place around that date all over the county – so even if you cannot come along to the Festival day itself, you can join a celebration or activity nearby on a date that might suit you better.

The Festival of Nature is driven by Somerset Wildlife Trust, with the help of a collaboration of organisations that are already involved in safeguarding Somerset’s natural assets for generations to come.  Whilst these organisations have different core purposes, there is one thing that unites them all  – a passion for helping more people explore, enjoy and look after  the natural world in Somerset.  (Festival partners are Somerset Wildlife Trust, National Trust, RSPB, WWT, Exmoor National Park Authority, AONBs (Mendip Hills, Blackdown Hills, Quantock Hills), Somerset Rural Life Museum and Bridgwater & Taunton College)

Speaking on behalf of the Festival partnership, Simon Nash, Chief Executive of Somerset Wildlife Trust, explains, “We all know that being closer to nature is good for people and good for wildlife. As a partnership we believe that by coming together on this, we stand the greatest chance of giving nature a permanent place in people’s daily consciousness, and inspiring people to value it and take action to defend it. In celebrating all that we have here in Somerset with the festival, and getting more people outdoors and enjoying all things nature-based, more of us will start to understand that there is a role for us all to play in protecting it now and in the future. There is a danger that we take our natural environment for granted. We need that to change. We are just at the start of something special for Somerset this year and we hope to grow the Festival in years to come.”

Help spread the word: Please get behind the Somerset Festival of Nature through talking it about on Social Media using the hashtag #FoN

PHOTO by Jane A. Mares