Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust’s Wild at Heart project has been transformed to enable project participants to stay connected to nature and each other during lockdown. 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 to improve well-being and personal resilience through building a connection to nature and meeting other people. The group usually meets on a weekly basis and delivers nature based activities such as wildlife walks, cooking, gardening and crafts.
However since lockdown began the Wild at Heart project has had to be transformed to enable participants not to miss out on the regular contact with the team and other participants through friendly telephone calls, an active online community and regular nature activity packs posted to their homes, which is especially important for the participants who are not online.
One particular highlight is the new group project to make Wild at Heart Bunting, each participant was sent fabric and instructions through the post so they could decorate their own bunting triangle in their own way – a ‘group’ activity even whilst apart! The bunting will be assembled when the group returns so they can celebrate what they have achieved together.
Jenny King, Wild at Heart Project Officer said,
“The last few weeks have been challenging times for everyone and we have found this more so for many of the people we work with from our groups, who, in some cases, were already lonely or socially isolated. Through friendly telephone calls, we can spot people who might benefit from being linked up to other organisations and local services that are providing extra support such as emergency food parcels.
We are sharing content aimed at supporting and boosting wellbeing. We have created a beautiful Mindfulness in Nature video that features Sheffield locations – perfect for when we can’t get out as a group and we are sharing new things for our participants to try – we have even made dandelion fritters.
Community has always been at the heart of Wild at Heart, and now more than ever people need that social connection. And although we are apart in this time, we can still be connected – to nature and to each other.”
One of the Wild at Heart participants, Liz, has taken up embroidery again inspired by the Wild at Heart bunting idea, and is embroidering flowers onto hessian bags to make lavender bags as gifts. She has also been sharing the garden activity sheets in the posted nature activity packs with her neighbours, looking out for the wellbeing of others in her community too. Liz said,
“You at Wild at Heart encouraged us to do these things, things we wouldn’t have done ourselves – and that’s wellbeing, really.”
Roy, another member of the group, has really enjoyed receiving photos of the group in the post from us. He especially liked the photos of spring flowers in the pack, saying, “It is like having a bunch of flowers”. He is having these photos displayed in the communal café area in his accommodation for all the other residents to enjoy too.
Over the next few weeks the project will be exploring seasonal topics; nature books which links to Sheffield Libraries Year of Reading, setting up an online botanical café sharing tips and ideas to eat and drink seasonally and joining in with Wildlife Trust 30 Days Wild challenge throughout June.
Wild at heart show participants that connecting with nature has many benefits, and is important not only for fresh air and exercise, but for the wellbeing it brings. Noticing nature can reduce stress, bring feelings of wonder and awe that themselves bring happiness and a meaningful connection with the world around us. Our green spaces are a resource for learning new crafts, inspiring art, finding beauty, revisiting old hobbies, and sharing them with others can bring social connection.