"Delighted" - Recognition for outdoor project that supports dementia sufferers

Courtesy of the Bridport and Lyme Regis News

A Prestigious award has been handed to the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty for its work with people with dementia.

The AONB team, hosted by Dorset County Council has, won the award for a project that helps people with dementia to improve their health and wellbeing through nature.

The Stepping into Nature project received this year’s Bowland Award from the National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (NAAONB).

The award recognises an outstanding contribution to the UK’s AONBs. The project is run by the Dorset AONB team alongside partners including the Alzheimer’s Society, Dorset Forest School and the county council’s Partnership for Older People Programme (POPP).

It offers a range of outdoor activities for people with dementia and their carers, enabling them to be creative and socialise while engaging with Dorset’s natural landscape.

Regular activities include the Green Wood Club in ancient woodland at Netherbury near Bridport, where a small group gets together once a month to learn and rediscover traditional woodworking skills.

The Dorset AONB team were presented with the award at the Landscape for Life conference In July with more than 200 delegates voting for the project to win from the shortlist.

Julie Hammon, project assistant for the Dorset AONB team, said: “One of the aims of the AONB is enabling all people to be able to access the landscape easily. Together with our partners, I am delighted that our fellow AONBs have recognised Stepping into Nature’s contribution to improving people’s health and wellbeing in the landscape.”

It is currently a pilot project but the AONB team recently reached the second stage of a Big Lottery Fund bid to extend it for three years.

Cllr Jill Haynes, the county council’s Cabinet member for adult health, care and independence, said: “Stepping into a forest makes you feel recharged. Research also suggests that spending more time outdoors could be a pathway to health and wellbeing.

“Congratulations to the Dorset AONB team and its partners for this prestigious award. The longer-term plan is to set up similar projects across the county to help more people improve their wellbeing through our wonderful environment.”

Dorset libraries are hosting a series of Stepping into Nature engagement sessions during August to find out how people get out into the countryside.

It will take place at Dorchester Library on Friday, August 12, Swanage Library on Monday, August 15, Charmouth Library on Wednesday, August 17, Beaminster Library on Thursday, August 18, Bridport Library on Friday, August 19 and Lyme Regis Library on Monday, August 22.

To find out more about Stepping into Nature and the work of the Dorset AONB team, go to www.dorsetaonb.co.uk or follow @stepin2nature on Twitter.