The View

Country Walking Magazine (UK) - - Contents -

Kate Hum­ble, big woods, big balls, and walk­ing on pre­scrip­tion.

The his­to­rian G.M. Trevelyan once ob­served that he had ‘two doc­tors: my left leg and my right’. And it seems the Shet­land Is­lands have taken his words to heart.

GPs on Bri­tain’s most northerly isles can now pre­scribe ‘na­ture’ as part of their pa­tients’ treat­ment. The idea of ‘Na­ture Pre­scrip­tions’ was tri­alled in Scall­away, and was so suc­cess­ful it has been rolled out across all ten of the is­lands’ surg­eries.

The project is a joint ven­ture be­tween NHS Shet­land and the RSPB. As part of the pre­scrip­tion, GPs hand over a leaflet on ways to en­gage with na­ture in their lo­cal area, and a cal­en­dar of sea­son ac­tiv­i­ties. Walk­ing, of course, fig­ures highly on the list.

Karen MacKelvie, of RSPB Scot­land, ex­plains: “There is over­whelm­ing ev­i­dence that na­ture has health ben­e­fits for body and mind. Shet­land is stap­pit fu’ [stuffed full] of nat­u­ral won­ders. But de­spite many doc­tors us­ing the out­doors to com­bat ill health, far fewer rec­om­mend the same strat­egy to their pa­tients.

“So we saw an op­por­tu­nity to de­sign a leaflet that helps doc­tors de­scribe the health ben­e­fits of na­ture and pro­vides plenty of lo­cal ideas to help get their pa­tients out­doors.”

GP Dr Chloe Evans added: “It’s free, eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble, and al­lows in­creased con­nec­tion with your sur­round­ings, which hope­fully leads to im­proved phys­i­cal and men­tal health.”

There’s no word yet on whether the pro­gram will be ex­panded onto the main­land (wouldn’t that be great?), but if you fancy a taste of it, you can down­load the ac­tiv­ity cal­en­dar at www.healthyshet­land.com. Most of the op­tions are Shet­land-cen­tric of course – but you could eas­ily adapt them to your own ge­og­ra­phy, wher­ever you may be…

GET OUT THERE! Bird­watch­ing on the cliffs of Her­maness is one of the rec­om­men­da­tions in Shet­land’s Na­ture Pre­scrip­tions cal­en­dar.

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