At times, many of us can feel lonely, isolated, or down, and it can be hard to know how to feel more like yourself again.

If you’re an adult who would like help in improving your sense of wellbeing, and live in or near Small Dole (near Henfield), or Burgess Hill, we would like to invite you to register your interest in joining one of the Lost Woods project’s free Woods on Prescription courses starting next month.

We’ll be running activities that will help connect you with nature, and you’ll meet new people in your local area too. The two groups (one in Small Dole, and the other in Burgess Hill) will meet fortnightly. The six sessions will take place in local woodlands near you - please see more details at the end of this page.

Cathy Wallace, Lost Woods Community Development Worker, explains more:

Spending time in nature is good for us. How many of us feel instinctively better, more energised and less stressed after a walk in the woods? And how many of us have ever uttered the words ‘I really regret that walk in nature I went on this morning’?!

But it’s not just anecdotal. There’s a huge body of research demonstrating the positive health and wellbeing benefits of spending time in woodlands.

For a start, walking in the woods gets us moving and active, bringing the many health benefits of exercise and physical activity that we already all know about. However research shows that exercising or being active in nature, is even more beneficial to our physical and mental health than chugging away on a treadmill at the gym.

Time in nature helps reduce the negative effects of stress, lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), improves sleep, enhances immune function, and boosts mood. It’s been shown to help with conditions like anxiety and depression, as well as reduce blood pressure.

Feeling part of a community also has positive health benefits. Research also overwhelmingly shows that having good social networks, and being involved in your local community, is excellent for mental health and wellbeing.

But if you're feeling low, alone, or unwell, it can sometimes be an off-putting thought to venture out on your own.

'Woods on Prescription' is a course open to adults who could benefit from time in woodlands. The course is designed to particularly welcome people with mental health challenges, those struggling with isolation and loneliness, those living with long-term health conditions or recovering from major health events.

We meet fortnightly for sessions in a woodland environment, following the NHS’s Five Ways to Wellbeing model. Each week is themed around a different principle that’s shown to boost mental health and wellbeing – these are Taking Notice, Getting Active, Giving Something Back, Connecting with Others, and Learning Something New.

The sessions offer nature-based activities including light conservation work, woodland crafts, mindfulness activities, wildlife surveying, and seasonal activities, in a gentle and non-prescriptive way. All the activities are tailored to be accessible to everybody. Of course, there’s plenty of tea and cake, and time for connection and reflection too.

We would love to hear from anybody who might be interested in joining one of the courses - either in Small Dole (near Henfield) or in Burgess Hill. It could be you, or perhaps you can mention the courses to somebody in need that you know. For example that person up the road who has just lost a loved one, the person at your local community centre recovering from a long-term condition or a health event, an overwhelmed new parent or an elderly neighbour who’s feeling isolated and lonely.

To find out more or to register your interest to attend, please email Cathy at Places are limited so please do get in touch as soon as you can if you'd like to join us. We are also keen to hear from social prescribers or community groups who would like to refer local people to join a course.

Woods on Prescription course dates, Spring 2024:

There are two separate groups running from April. Places are limited and booking is essential.

Burgess Hill

Location: West Park Nature Reserve

Dates: Wednesdays 17 April, 1 May, 15 May, 29 May, 12 June, 26 June

Time: 10am - 1pm

Small Dole, near Henfield

Location: Tottington Woods

Dates: Wednesdays: 24 April, 8 May, 22 May, 5 June, 19 June, 3 July

Times: 10am - 1pm

The courses are made possible thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund.