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World Heritage Site Blenheim involved in Research England funded programme to address mental distress, social isolation and physical inactivity caused by lockdown

Blenheim is piloting a new ‘social prescription’ programme aimed at addressing the mental distress, social isolation and physical inactivity caused by lockdown.

The six-week programme requires a group of volunteers take part in two-hour walks and mindfulness activities around the Oxfordshire estate.

Overall the project’s aim is to increase the participants wellbeing by engaging them in social activities connected to nature and the great outdoors.

People walking at Blenheim
People walking at Blenheim

Activity trackers will monitor their progress and questionnaires will be used to gather data and assess its effectiveness.

Blenheim has partnered with Aspire, the Oxfordshire-based charity supporting homeless and disadvantaged individuals, the Eden Project and the University of Oxford on the project, which is being funded by Research England.

Blenheim’s estates director Roy Cox said: “The pandemic has highlighted the urgent need to address issues of mental health and wellbeing as a matter of urgency.

Couple walking in woodland at Blenheim
Couple walking in woodland at Blenheim

“Increasingly people are looking at the benefits of ongoing interaction with nature and the natural world as an alternative to traditional medical interventions.

“By joining the natural resources of our land with the health service, our woodlands, green spaces and fresh air can begin to be prescribed as the most natural of health solutions

“Society is living longer and developing long term health conditions, which include mental health issues and loneliness. GP surgeries are struggling to cope when, as a nation, 20 per cent of consultations are for matters of housing, employment and relationship breakdowns.

“Social prescribing is increasingly a government priority and as a landed estate, deep-rooted with the community, we are uniquely placed to respond.”

Couple on bench at Blenheim Picture: Pete Seaward
Couple on bench at Blenheim Picture: Pete Seaward

Blenheim is hoping the results of the pilot will encourage other local community and health service organisations, including GP surgeries, to get involved with the scheme.

Blenheim’s Land Strategy covers five main areas – sharing the health and wellbeing benefits of land with local communities, creating a network of paths and cycle routes to promote green travel, valuing nature to create new income streams, demonstrating the role of carbon positive land in tackling climate change and re-delivering economic gain from land.

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