This post has been written by our Moor to Enjoy Project Coordinator, Lucy McQuillan. Lucy has a background in community development over 21 years working with families, young people, groups with learning difficulties and older people on the Scottish Inner Hebridean Islands, and at the Lake District National Park Authority, Campaign for National Parks (CNP) and Exmoor National Park Authority. Through these various roles, Lucy has seen the benefits that being out in nature has on people’s mental health and quality of life. She also believes passionately that the more people understand and experience, the more they will campaign and work to protect our only home Planet Earth. Once you’ve read the article, please contact Lucy to start planning your group’s visit to Exmoor and experience all the below points for yourself – Exmoor National Park is good for you!
For your Health and Wellbeing:
There is Moor to Enjoy on Exmoor than cream teas!
(although they are a pretty good place to start!)
What Exmoor National Park has (as with all the 15 National Parks) is a natural environment that can promote both physical and mental health and wellbeing – a Natural Health Service. The more often we interact and engage with the natural environment, the more likely we are of creating a self-fuelling cycle of Health and Wellbeing, as well as an appreciation of how important the natural world is to all living things.
What do we mean by Health and Wellbeing on Exmoor? By wellbeing, the Moor to Enjoy Project means happy and healthy people and communities appreciating and enjoying the wonder of the natural environment and all it can offer us – lifting our spirits, a place to keep physically and mentally active.
Humans have evolved in the great outdoors living with nature. Our modern lives of towns, roads, living and working indoors are a relatively recent development that our brains have not necessarily kept up with. For those who have not experienced being out in nature, the latent appreciation of nature does not take long to find again. Being outdoors has multiple physical and mental health benefits. Ask yourself, what are some of your earliest good memories in life that gave you a sense of wellbeing and happiness? When I’ve asked this question of people, the commonest reply is when they were outside experiencing nature – whether it was sitting next to a river listening to it, being shown a butterfly, going for a walk, camping or gardening.
Exmoor National Park has always been here for people to enjoy, relax and recharge their batteries. The staff who work at the National Park Centres, the Rangers and Education and Outreach team help people get as much out of their visit as possible through a variety of mediums, such as guided walks and Exmoor Big Adventure Days. Whatever stage or age you are at in life, Connecting, Being Active, Taking Notice, Learning and Giving – The Five Ways to Wellbeing – the great outdoors has opportunities to do all of these. On offer is a whole host of ‘antidotes’ to the daily challenges of life, including helping to reduce depression, improved feelings of wellbeing and mental health, and a lowered perceptions of stress. “We live in a fast-paced society. Walking slows us down” (Robert Sweetgall, Author; Walking Wellness)
Connecting with self, others and nature
The pressures of everyday life can make it easy to take for granted those things that are important in life. Connection with nature and community are core to the ethos of the Moor to Enjoy Project. ‘Connect’ being one of the Five Ways to Wellbeing; proven to be good for our physical and emotional health, and vital for wellbeing in many different ways. We can connect to ourselves, to each other and to the wider world.
As humans our personal wellbeing is dependent upon our relationships, and upon the communities and contexts in which we work, live and play. These, in turn, depend on the fairness of society as a whole, and the long-term health of the natural world on which we all depend. So connecting and caring for ourselves, each other and nature are interconnected priorities which underpin the whole of life.
What’s on offer?
The Moor to Enjoy Project can offer many ways for people to connect with others and themselves. A variety of activities can be arranged, including practicing mindfulness, spending time in nature walking, learning, looking for wildlife, cooking outdoors, group games, sitting and being…. The Project is in its third year of supporting and working with groups and their group leaders to organise unique days out on Exmoor that meet the interests and needs of each group.
The Project’s philosophy is based on the Five Ways to Wellbeing and encourages all of these elements for boosting the individuals Health and Wellbeing – whether that is ‘Giving’ through volunteering for the National Park or ‘Learning’ about bats, flora and fauna or ‘Connecting’ with the people around you.
And in the words of one of the participants enjoying a Moor to Enjoy outing to Wimbleball Lake:Click here to find out more about the Moor to Enjoy project, or to book a Group Leader Taster Day (or talk about developing a day on Exmoor for your group), please click this link to contact Lucy.