The stress of Covid-19 and especially the period of lockdown has had a significant impact on peoples’ mental wellbeing. Being active outdoors in nature has never been more vital. World Mental Health Day on 10th October is a great opportunity to highlight some of the ways you can focus on your health and wellbeing.
The Chilterns countryside offers a natural tonic for the soul – a stunning landscape with 2,000km of rights of way, dozens of nature reserves and countryside sites, some beautiful promoted walks and lots of opportunities for volunteering, learning, connecting and enjoying this special area. We’ve put together some ideas for ways to help look after your body and soul:
Get out into nature
This October the Chilterns Celebration and Chilterns Walking Festival are offering a range of small-group guided walks and events with a strong focus on health & wellbeing linking in with World Mental Health Day – a great way to get active, meet new people, see new places and de-stress from the challenges we’ve all faced this year.
There are lots of opportunities ranging from micro (bite-size) volunteering to a regular commitment of a few hours (or more if you can spare it). Volunteering has been consistently shown to improve mental wellbeing, and can be a great way of meeting like-minded people and improving your own skills. If you’re not able to leave the house at the moment there are hundreds of charities that need help in a virtual capacity – writing content, updating social media and can all be done from the safety of your own home. If conservation is your thing, we’d love to hear from you, but there are hundreds of charities locally that could do with some help – Do-it.org has listings of volunteer opportunities so have a look!
Many local businesses expanded their offering during lockdown, providing a lifeline to their local communities when things were at their most difficult, including delivery in many cases. Supporting these local businesses will help build your local community, which in turn will be better able to support you. Consider shopping in a community shop, farm shop or small local business rather than national or regional chains.
with Christmas approaching it’s a great time to start finding out about local producers that are, let’s face it, going to need a bit of a boost this year. Why not give back to your local area and buy Christmas gifts from local companies: buy experiences, local Chilterns specialities or crafts rather than more ‘stuff’. How about the Chiltern Society’s ‘sponsor a tree’ initiative, a bushcraft course, or a vineyard or distillery tour? Here are some ideas of Chilterns craft and food & drink gifts made locally by small-scale artisans!
Learn something new
Try your hand at citizen science, recording butterflies or bees, or the archaeologically minded could help interpret LiDAR mapping data with our Beacons of the Past project. The Chilterns Celebration this October has many opportunities to get involved – a free creative workshops for young people in High Wycombe (10th Oct), hedgerow planting with the Chiltern Rangers (12th Oct), interactive wellness education (online, 15th Oct) and live acoustic performances and much more. See the full programme for more details. If you’re worried about getting lost in the great outdoors, try one of the half-day map reading courses as part of the Chiltern Walking Festival or learn to walk Nordic style with our tasters and guided sessions . If your attempts at baking bread with hastily procured flour and yeast from the depths of the cupboard during lockdown turned out a little flat, why not learn from the pros at the last working mill on the river Ver.
The Chilterns boast a number of trails of national importance, for walkers, horse riders and cyclists. The Ridgeway, Thames Path or Chiltern Way are all good options for walkers (you don’t have to do them all in one go!) while the Chilterns Cycleway is a 170-mile circular route passing all around the AONB. If pedalling up enormous hills clad in lycra doesn’t appeal though, there are plenty of off road trails and easier inclines to try. Wendover Woods has a number of family cycle trails of differing lengths, while the Phoenix trail from Princes Risborough offers a flat (former railway) 7.5km ride to Thame. For the more adventurous, Aston Hill has a regionally recognised mountain bike park featuring five graded downhill runs, a 4X track and a two-part cross-country loop with something to challenge everyone of every mountain bike discipline.
Share the joy
Enjoy the Chilterns in the company of others by joining a walking or outdoor activity group.
- The Chiltern Society organises a popular programme of walks throughout the year, designed to improve both physical and mental health. Anyone is welcome to join in their half-day, day or occasional special interest walks. Most walks are around 5 miles long and there are 2 or 3 walks on offer every week. See here for further information.
- Hundreds of Health Walks take place each week across the Chilterns. These volunteer led walks have something for everyone, with all abilities catered for. The walks are all sociable and you don’t need any special equipment to join in, just comfortable shoes, and all walks are free! Visit the website to find your local Health Walk. Please note that some activities remain suspended to help suppress the spread of Covid-19. Always check with your local group before travelling.
- There are several groups that can help you to get outside in a group walk (socially distanced of course). The Ramblers is a good place to start and has regular walks listed on its website. Chiltern Young Walkers is a friendly and sociable walking group aimed at people in their 20s-30s which offers a diverse variety of walks and social events across the Chilterns. Visit: www.chilterns2030s.org.uk for more information.
- You could also check local online groups and facebook pages and advertising for park runs and other groups to help meet up in the great outdoors – you could even join or form a litter picking group and do some good while you’re at it!
The space to heal your soul
There are some wonderful centres for art courses, yoga and complementary health in tranquil Chilterns settings.
- Where inspiration blooms just outside the market town of Chesham offers art classes, horticulture, pottery and wellbeing courses, some of which are family friendly (see website for details).
- The Coaching Barn between Wallingford and Goring offers a similar range of courses for both adults and children.
This World Mental Health Day – and beyond – we hope you are able to use the above suggestions enjoy the wonderful Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.