Our Nature Walks for Wellbeing are ten years old (and a bit…)!

Nature Walks for Wellbeing – 10th Anniversary of a Highland journey to health!

On Thursday 17th November 2011 a small band of people gathered at the canal side in Inverness to head out with Stephen Wiseman on what was the first walk aiming to connect people with nature, themselves and each other for mutual benefit. HUG Action for Mental health were at the core of these first few steps in a healthy direction. Stephen had attempted to encourage participation before that through the Highland Recovery Network but it took meeting up with Graham Morgan from HUG to get things really underway. With Graham as ambassador, people turned up and we enjoyed the rambles and chats, engaging with all the wildlife that was encountered on the way. 

Soon after this, working with Fiona Chalmers from Moray and the good folks at Anam Cara, we developed the idea with a project called Woodlands and Waterways. At this time the value of stopping to have a drink and a piece of flapjack came into being. Back then our friend Karen Grant from Forres fired up an old rocket stove and provided the flapjack – with mystery ingredients for people to mindfully taste and guess. This half hour break, during the ninety minute session, has continued on to this day and having time and space in nature to eat together and socialise has proven hugely beneficial. The culinary guessing game is eternally popular!

Moving forward to today we have steadily seen the growth of Nature Walks with hundreds of walks and people proving the value of time outdoors in nature. From the initial days when Stephen worked with Scottish Waterways Trust through to the continuation of walks with Nature 4 Health, we have delivered almost one thousand of these walks in over a decade, with between 5 and 30 folk per walk. Activities have always remained free of charge and for all the community, which today now spreads to Nairn, Forres, Elgin and Aberlour as well as Inverness. No rocket stove these days – storm kettles more easily packed and deployed – but all the ingredients that make these outings special are still there. Qualified naturalist walks leaders, games, poetry, stories – lots of things that engage the groups that gather. 

From the experiences developing the benefits of nature for health, Ruaraidh Milne and Stephen have created workshops and training that are partially online/outdoors in woodland with others who want to take these ideas forward. Teachers, rangers, early years and youth workers have all enjoyed learning more about the values of simple engagement in the outdoors through our ‘Using Nature as a resource to support mental health’. We all have mental health and in today’s busy and challenging world, we all need to take care of it.

As a special celebration day we are going to have the fire on and cake and tea available beside the turning circle area at Merkinch Nature Reserve on Thursday 17th November from 1230. This will give us an hour to think back on times spent in nature and raise a mug of tea to the whole endeavour. At 1.30pm we will then have our usual 90 minute walk and find out just what wild and wonderful things are happening on the reserve.