Chichester Observer

The restorativ­e power of nature

- Kate Drake, health and wellbeing officer for the national park authority

Spring is such a special time in the South Downs National Park. The woods come alive with captivatin­g carpets of bluebells, the birdsong is one of most uplifting symphonies you’re ever likely to hear and the way the sunlight hits the landscape is simply magical. May is National Walking Month, so it couldn’t be better timed! I think a springtime walk is always marked by new discoverie­s as nature bursts with new colours and the days become longer – and potentiall­y warmer, although I think we can all agree it’s been rather chilly and wet of late!

Mental Health Awareness Week also begins on Monday and we’ll be continuing to share the message of the wonderful health and wellbeing benefits of connecting with nature. We’ll also be revealing more about the national park authority’s new Health and Wellbeing Strategy, so watch this space! Indeed, the national data now confirms what we suspected – that nature and green spaces have been a big comfort during the lockdown. The ONS survey showed that 40 per cent of people say nature, wildlife and visiting local green spaces have been even more important to their wellbeing since restrictio­ns began. It’s something that has been echoed in lots of the positive testimonia­ls we’ve received from some of the projects we’ve helped to support in our local communitie­s over the past year.

A really good showcase of this is the current exhibition at Worthing Pier, The Nourishing Nature of the South Downs. If you haven’t been yet, I would recommend it!

I know I find connecting with nature very beneficial for my own mental health. It can be as simple as taking some deep breaths while you’re in a green space or, my own personal favourite at the moment, listening to the dawn chorus of the birds. I also enjoy being in the moment and noticing the small daily changes as nature comes alive again. However you connect with the South Downs this spring we hope it continues to be restoring and replenishi­ng for both mind and body.

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