Countryside therapy boosted lockdown wellbeing, says survey

NFU East Anglia director Gary Ford and NFU Norfolk chairman Jamie Lockhart with new field signs

NFU East Anglia director Gary Ford and NFU Norfolk chairman Jamie Lockhart with new field signs designed to help inform countryside visitors - Credit: NFU

The ability of East Anglia’s countryside to boost people’s wellbeing during lockdown has been highlighted in a new survey.

According to the Censuswide survey, 88pc of people questioned in towns and cities across the region said visiting the countryside and farmland over the past year had improved their physical or mental wellbeing. Just over half said it helped to improve both.

Meanwhile, more than a third said they spent more time in the countryside during lockdown and 45pc said they had a greater appreciation of rural areas than they did a year ago.

Gary Ford, East Anglia regional director for the National Farmers' Union (NFU) said: "For much of the lockdown, visiting the countryside was the only recreation and exercise many people were able to enjoy. It’s heartening to discover this really has boosted the nation’s health and wellbeing.

"The survey confirms that connecting people with rural areas they may never have visited before can leave a long-term positive legacy of greater appreciation of the countryside as well as, importantly, improving health and wellbeing. 

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“Countless popular rural tourist spots throughout East Anglia are located on working farmland, and farmers work hard to maintain footpaths and public rights of way so visitors can enjoy our beautiful countryside. 

“Recognising this, and to inform visitors using footpaths of what is happening on farmland, we have created a suite of new footpath signs that enable people to see what’s growing, or grazing, in fields.  

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“Visitors can read all about commonly-grown food crops or the farm animals they see, scanning a QR code on the sign with their smartphone to learn more.”

The importance of the countryside and farmed landscape for bolstering people’s health and wellbeing is also recognised by mental health charity Norfolk and Waveney Mind.

Ruth Taylor, mindfulness manager at Norfolk and Waveney Mind

Ruth Taylor, mindfulness manager at Norfolk and Waveney Mind - Credit: Norfolk and Waveney Mind

Mindfulness manager Ruth Taylor said: “There’s a huge amount of evidence of how beneficial it is for us to get out in nature, and more recently, in helping us come to terms with the changes the pandemic brought to our lives. 

“We found this in our recent DCMS / Pears Foundation project at the start of this year, offering mindful woodland walks and food growing activities. Here, 95pc of attendees reported their mood had improved, they felt calmer, closer to others around them and less isolated following these sessions. 

“We are very excited to be offering a new project this autumn, building on these nature-based activities, called Nature Connect, which will offer other opportunities for people across Norfolk to engage with both green and blue spaces around them.”

A woman walking a dog in a sheep field

A new Censuswide survey has revealed how the countryside has boosted people's physical and mental wellbeing during lockdown - Credit: Adam Fradgley/NFU commission

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