An ambling walk can be great therapy – taking in the natural world around you, with some good company and relaxed conversation. And so an innovative project launched in Inverness last week has begun providing nature-based ‘ecotherapy’ walks for people experiencing exclusion due to poor physical and mental health.
Nature Walks for Wellbeing, a year-long programme run by the Scottish Waterways Trust and part-funded by SNH, will provide weekly 90-minute outings along and around the Caledonian Canal in Inverness. Participants include those referred by local rehabilitation units, recovery ‘halfway houses’ and HUG Action for Mental Health.
The sessions are designed to provide immediate and lasting wellbeing benefits, reducing isolation and aiding the healing process. The outings will include a range of activities such as nature-tracking, wildlife-watching, storytelling, mindfulness and poetry.
Catriona Ross, a Nature Walks for Wellbeing participant, said: “The biggest hurdle has been summing up the energy to get out and about. I think the fresh air and the exercise and, in particular, the mindfulness have really helped. They’ve got a refreshing effect. I find myself going back in much happier and more energised after being out and taking time to appreciate nature and the surroundings. It’s great camaraderie as well.”
The wellbeing walks are led by the Scottish Waterways Trust’s Stephen Wiseman, with around 15 participants in each session. All activities are undertaken in a mindful way, including yoga, forest meditation and the essential hot cup of tea and homemade flapjack.
Karen Moore, Chief Executive of the Scottish Waterways Trust, said: “Scottish Waterways Trust is delighted to launch Nature Walks for Wellbeing in Inverness. The walks are designed to connect members of the local community with the environment in a new and innovative way, and help to support those in need using the unique benefits of the Caledonian Canal. Each 90 minute session provides the opportunity for participants to engage with nature in an inclusive, social setting and experience a range of mindful activities.”