The impact of the pandemic on health- especially mental health- seems likely to be a long term issue. But in recent months many people have discovered the power of nature to help cope with the stresses and strains, and the result is that nature -based projects have seen demands rise and new opportunities for creativity.
How has the pandemic affected Green Care?
Iris Van Zon, who runs Clinks Care Farm, near Beccles says:
‘During lockdown there were many people offering to volunteer with us, and some of those are still volunteering with us today. The feedback we had from these volunteers and our existing volunteers is that it kept them staying positive and focussed.‘
Clinks Care Farm arranged for all activities to take place outdoors, and so were able to open up their day service at the end of May, a lot earlier than other providers. Farm helpers benefited enormously from attending the care farm again with stimulating outdoor activities. ‘It really has improved people’s physical and mental health’ says Iris.
And it doesn’t end there. The pandemic seems to have stimulated a greater interest in fresh local produce, direct from the grower. As a result of increased demand, Clinks Care Farm have doubled the amount of veg they grow. Iris feels ‘People have started to think differently about food and where their food comes from.’
And what about the birds?
Many people have noticed how much quieter it has been in recent months, and this creates space for natural sounds like bird song and the wind through trees and grasses. The Homesounds project encourages everyone, particularly young people, to become active ‘environmental listener’s for the benefit of their creativity, health and education. Founder and Director of Recast Music Education Martin Scaiff, which runs Homesounds says:
‘The imposition of the Lockdown encouraged us to develop our online activities. We began running live-stream sound-walks, broadcasting through the HomeSounds youtube channel. As a consequence we reached a much greater audience and had a significant impact on the well-being of those who joined us, from all over the UK and beyond. We were also able to deliver a limited number of in-person sound-walks at various sites across the County. Some of the feedback includes:
‘Walking silently was really hard but almost acted like a detox for my mind’.
‘The experience was really intriguing, calming and enjoyable. It made me respect the environment and wildlife we heard even more’.
‘I loved the experience and it felt amazing to be surrounded by wildlife’.’
And gardening has also boomed with a third of a million Britons visiting the Royal Horticultural Society website for advice, seed companies seeing a 600% increase in sales and a recent poll showing that 7 in 10 of us think gardening has helped our mental health.