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Free Natural Health Service courses available this spring

West Cheshire residents can benefit from a range of free nature-based activity courses to help boost their health and wellbeing this spring.

The 12-week courses are part of Cheshire's Natural Health Service, which is managed by The Mersey Forest in partnership with Cheshire West and Chester Council. The service uses the natural environment to address local health inequalities and improve the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities in the area.

There are four courses currently taking place across some of the borough's parks, green spaces, and woodlands.

Healthy conservation – A fun outdoor session, taking part in the wonderful Whitby Park in Ellesmere Port. The sessions will help you improve your strength and stamina through nature-based conservation projects, boosting practical skills and confidence, increasing physical activity, Whilst connecting with others.

Health walks - A safe and sociable place to take part in guided walks around Marbury Country Park in Northwich, which are tailored to individual needs and designed to gradually increase physical activity levels and share experiences. The sessions also include a creative element and offer the chance to produce imagery inspired by nature.

Mindful contact with nature – Taking place in Helsby, Frodham and Northwich these sessions are focused on nature-based mindfulness practice and outdoor Tai Chi. This course is designed to help you build resilience from day-to-day triggers of stress and are also shown to increase capacity to self-manage long-term chronic conditions.

Gardening for all - Gardening and food growing activities in a social setting at Whitby Park, Ellesmere Port. The guided sessions encourage tailored levels of physical activity and focus on learning new skills and meeting new people.

Many things that affect our health can't be treated by doctors or medicines alone. That is where initiatives such as the Natural Health Service come in, offering people alternatives which might be suggested to you through social prescribing.

A national Social Prescribing Day takes place every year on the 14th of March, highlighting how it works and how it can change lives. Social prescribing connects people to non-medical support to address their needs - it may be health conditions, loneliness, debt, or stress.

To speak to a social prescribing organisation in your area, simply contact your GP who can put you in touch with a local link worker. Research shows that access to and use of green spaces, whether in our towns, cities or villages or further afield, provides mental health benefits, including restoration from stress, reduced psychological distress and decreased depression and anxiety. Green social prescribing, such as that offered through the Natural Health Service, is a great example of this.

Gareth Howatson, Co-ordinator for the Natural Health Service, explains: "Through our Natural Health Service we've been able to connect with so many amazing members of the public who have taken part in our activities. By holding these activities outdoors, in the safe spaces that nature provide, many people feel comfortable to share experiences with one another which is hugely beneficial.

"As humans, we all experience what feel like our own challenges in life, and we often forget that other people are also facing challenges of their own. Our programmes remind us of this and provide comfort in knowing we aren't facing our challenges alone".

One participant who has previously accessed the course said "I feel I've benefited hugely from these sessions. I came to them as a result of feeling very stressed and anxious due to a recent family trauma. I wasn't sleeping and was breaking down all the time. I couldn't see a way forward. In parallel to attending a therapist, this course has helped me feel calmer, more focused, sleep better and have coping strategies when I hit tough times in the future".

A full list of upcoming Natural Health Service courses can be found below. To find out more about how to access the Natural Health Service courses please email: or call: 01925 816217. All sessions are free of charge to access.

Gardening For All at Whitby Park, Ellesmere Port – Thursdays 10.30am – 2.30pm, from 14 April to 13 June 2024.

Mindful Contact in Nature at Helsby Community Centre, Mondays 11am – 1pm or 1.30pm – 3.30pm, from 18 March to 3 June 2024.

Healthy Conservation at Whitby Park, Ellesmere Port, Tuesdays 10am – 12.30pm from 2 April to 18 June 2024.

Mindful Contact in Nature at Castle Park, Frodsham, Thursdays 10am – 12pm or 1pm – 3pm from 4 April – 30 May 2024

Health Walks at Marbury Country Park, Northwich, Tuesdays 1.30pm – 3pm from 16 April to 9 July 2024.

Health Walks at Marbury Country Park, Northwich, Fridays 10.30am – 12.30pm from 19 April 2024 to 12 July 2024.

Mindful Contact in Nature at Castle Park, Frodsham, Thursdays 10am – 12pm or 1pm – 3pm from 6 June to 25 July 2024.

Mindful Contact in Nature at Helsby Community Centre, Mondays 11am – 1pm or 1.30pm – 3.30pm from 10 June - 29 July 2024.

Mindful Contact in Nature at Vickersway Park, Northwich, Wednesdays 10.30am – 11.30am from 5 June – 24 July 2024.

Gardening for All at Whitby Park, Ellesmere Port, Wednesdays 10.30am – 2.30pm from 5 May – 21 August 2024.

Gardening for All at Whitby Park, Ellesmere Port, Thursdays 10.30am – 2.30pm from 20 June – 5 September 2024.


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