More than 3,300 people have attended a pioneering scheme in Adur and Worthing that uses activities in parks, woodlands and other green spaces to promote health and wellbeing.
Over the last year the Growing Communities scheme, backed by Adur & Worthing Councils, has been running a whole series of free events and activities including bushcraft, hula fitness, green gyms, community walks and parent and toddler gardening sessions.
Two areas of priority, Eastbrook in Adur and Northbrook in Worthing, are the focus of the schemes and residents have responded in their thousands.
Growing Communities is run by national charity The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) with the simple philosophy that natural green spaces help reduce stress, raise spirits and can play some part in helping people avoid long-term mental health conditions such as depression.
Run by a small team and supported by officers from the Councils, Growing Communities conducted a diverse range of activities in consultation with local communities. For example the maintenance of ancient woodland at Whitebeam has been undertaken by volunteers who have been coppicing and maintaining pathways.
Walking tours have been hugely popular and a spin-off group, Eastbrook Explorers, now run regular activities including a harbour foreshore history stroll and a Teddy Bears’ picnic.
A report to Adur and Worthing Councils’ Joint Strategic Committee says 3,359 attendees have taken part in the first year of the project significantly exceeding targets set by the National Lottery Reaching Communities Fund. The National Lottery’s Big Lottery Fund contributed more than £650,000 for the three year project with £90,000 plus officer support coming from the Councils.
In a study many taking part said the activities had improved their wellbeing including one anonymous participant who said, “ I am starting to see that I can do something good and make a difference.”
In the future the project will continue to involve residents to work and improve green spaces in both areas.
Adur District Council’s Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Dave Simmons, said, “This report is welcome news. It shows that getting out in the fresh air helping to improve our green spaces or just having fun with new friends can make a lot of difference to our sense of wellbeing.”
Worthing Borough Council’s Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Val Turner, said, “ This report shows we were right to back this project both with funding and with our officers’ time. Not only are our wonderful green spaces like Whitebeam Woods being looked after but those doing it are getting a real sense of achievement out of it.”