My Wild Life – Celebrating Wellbeing with Nature - Mhairi Cornish

As I write this blog at the end of the Wellbeing with Nature Project, it is nice to have the opportunity to reflect on the past four incredible years. The Wellbeing with Nature Project was set up in 2016 to inspire and support people to learn new skills and lead healthier lives through experiencing nature and being outdoors.

Throughout the project I have delivered a huge variety of courses and sessions for a wide range of people including those experiencing mild to moderate mental health illness and long-term health conditions, adults with learning difficulties and disabilities, autism and older people including those living with dementia and their carers. There have been several times when participants have told us that the course has literally been life saving for them. It’s also amazing the number of participants who have gained the confidence to go on to do volunteering, gain employment or go back to education, often choosing to do these within the environment sector.

This project has been immensely important to me, I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of it. Nature means everything to me, and I feel that a key way we are going to inspire change is through projects like these. I believe we need to be deeply emotionally connected to nature before we’ll protect it.

As part of the project, we originally used the 5 Ways to Wellbeing to design our activities but in the last year we have been using the 5 Pathways to Nature Connectedness instead. Using the 5 Pathways to Nature Connectedness ensures we are designing our activities to get the highest level of meaningful engagement from participants and ultimately promote a deep connection to nature. An example of this was using the ‘senses’ pathway to design nature-based mindfulness activities such as walks and sit spots.

I’ve really enjoyed being able to share my passion for nature with people over the years. Some highlights for me have been working with Shaun in the wildflower nursery at Grow Wilder during the 18-week self-care course and also the older people’s project. I feel like some of our best conversations have happened when sat around a table outside re-potting wildflowers. I’m also continually touched by participant’s personal journeys and the achievements they’ve made while coming on our courses.

Being out in nature gives me a great sense of freedom, calmness and sense of belonging, so I do a lot of cycling, walking, camping and wild swimming, often with friends. I also have an allotment which I absolutely love, it’s a place where I can give back to nature, it’s full of wildflowers. During the first lockdown there was a pair of bullfinches nesting there. I also love doing crafts, I find knitting and weaving very therapeutic and have really enjoyed being able to share my skills with participants.

It’s been very empowering and inspiring to work at Avon Wildlife Trust, it’s great to work in a place where everyone is passionate and cares a lot. Jason and Kelly (the other two members of the Wellbeing Team) have been such a strong support to me and I’m really grateful to all the moments when they’ve been there for me. As my next steps, I’m excited to move on and continue this work in my new role as Nature Connections Project Officer at Somerset Wildlife Trust.

To find out more about the legacy left by the Wellbeing with Nature Project at Avon Wildlife Trust, visit: avonwildlifetrust.org.uk/wellbeing-with-nature

Project Officer Jason and Project Manager Kelly also reflect, have a look at their blogs too as we celebrate all that the have done throughout this project