Wild at Heart is a National Lottery Community Fund project that delivers friendly and supportive nature-based activity sessions for adults over 50 years, helping people to improve well-being and personal resilience through building a connection to nature and meeting other people.
We are also now commissioned by the Rotherham Social Prescribing Service to deliver a weekly Wild at Heart Nature Connection Activity Session in Clifton Park in Rotherham
The project uses a hobby-based approach to give people opportunities to try new things and gain the confidence to continue on their own or with family or friends.
What we have discovered for ourselves, has been backed up by the research: a strong and meaningful connection to nature is associated with improved wellbeing and mood, lower anxiety, improved life satisfaction, as well as feeling connected to the wider world and being compassionate to both other people and nature. Recent research has also shown that people can gain all these benefits without necessarily spending any more time in nature, but by simply noticing the everyday urban nature all around us.
All our Wild at Heart activities and sessions are based on the Five Ways to Wellbeing – Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning, and Give – from the New Economics Foundation which supports the principles behind Active Ageing. We also incorporate into all our sessions the 5 Pathways to Nature Connection – Sensing, Beauty, Meaning, Emotion, and Compassion – from the University of Derby’s Nature Connectedness Research Group, to promote a meaningful and active relationship with nature for our wellbeing.
We have embedded our sessions within our local communities, by visiting local and accessible parks, reserves and museums, supporting local organisations and charities, and inviting local experts and artists as guest speakers to our sessions. Our programmes are participant-led: many of the activities we run and the places we visit are originally suggested by our participants; we always try to incorporate their local knowledge and personal interests to celebrate the community heritage and to offer the opportunities for individuals to reconnect with nature-based hobbies which hold personal meaning. Through this coproduction, we build inclusive and supportive community groups, facilitating the social networks that people need to be supported in challenging circumstances and to develop resilience.
We recognise that it can be daunting, often impossible, to engage in our complex world if you are on your own, living with complex health conditions, recovering from illness or any of the other life challenges we all might have to face as we get older. Lack of access to transport, public toilets and meaningful social networks all conspire to isolate and dis-empower. However, the more connected we are to nature and to our communities, the more positive we feel and are better equipped to cope with challenging circumstances.
We currently run three two-hour sessions a week, which are based at The Centre at Brinsworth, Longley 4 Greens Community Centre, and Clifton Park Garden Rooms
Participants accessing the Clifton Park group through a referral from Rotherham Social Prescribing Team have a place funded for 12 sessions.
The main strands of the project are: nature-based arts and crafts; wild inspired cooking; wildlife gardening; learning to look after local nature; and exploring Sheffield and Rotherham. The sessions are adapted to reflect the changing seasons.
Keep in touch
If you would like more information about the Wild at Heart project, joining a group as a participant, or becoming a volunteer, please contact Project Officer Jenny King on 0114 263 4335 or email email@example.com
Wild at Heart has had a huge impact on the lives of many people in Sheffield and Rotherham. Here are just a few of our participants who have benefited from the project:
Cicely is part of our nature photography group. She is also living with dementia. She was put in touch with Wild at Heart by a voluntary sector support worker to access an activity that she found meaningful and enjoyable. Despite the dementia Cicely still enjoys learning and using what she has learned for her own enjoyment and to help others. We try and focus on what Cicely can do and provide opportunities for her to be able to do it.
Nigel is a member of our Manor Fields Park group. He has a very complex health history having had several serious long-term conditions, but he has really enjoyed being a part of Wild at Heart and even says that the project has saved his life. Nigel is in his 60s and is still working part time. Nevertheless, he manages to fit Wild at Heart into his week and comes to the sessions regularly, often several times per week. We have discussed his health conditions with him and worked out the best way of adapting the sessions to accommodate his needs. He enjoys sharing his knowledge and talking with other participants and contributes a huge amount to the project.
5 Pathways To Nature Connection – University of Derby
Natural ways to wellbeing with Dr Amir Khan – The Wildlife Trusts