Growing green ‘social prescribing’
12 March 2021
Cardiff University scientists are joining forces with a Cynon Valley social enterprise to explore the benefits of green ‘social prescribing’ on health, wellbeing and quality of life.
Green ‘social prescribing’ works by enabling healthcare professionals to refer people to nature-based activities – such as gardening or outdoor activities – bringing mental and physical benefits.
A team led by Professor Les Baillie, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences is joining forces with Cynon Valley Organic Adventures (CVOA) - a social enterprise based in Rhondda Cynon Taff – to develop a nature trail.
Based on a beautiful five-acre woodland and community garden, CVOA currently offers wellbeing activities, accredited learning that breaks down barriers to learning, and work and summer school for children aged five to 12.
Working with the community, the partnership will develop a nature trail in Abercynon which will provide opportunities for GP referrals and community members to engage in nature-based activities to enhance their personal wellbeing.
The project is backed by Accelerate - a pioneering collaboration between Welsh universities and the Life Sciences Hub Wales that helps to translate innovative ideas into new products.
Janis Werrett, founder of Cynon Valley Organic Adventures, said: “We’re delighted to be partnering with Cardiff University and Accelerate to create a nature trail that will help measure the benefits of social prescribing. I know from personal experience that as you nurture nature, nature nurtures you back. Three of us set up CVOA in 2018. As we cut back five years of nettle growth and fixed up fences across our site, our wellbeing began to improve. Just as the garden grew, we grew healthier and happier with it.”
CVOA’s wildlife garden brings people together to grow and cook food and develop new friendships. The venture set up accredited learning courses in 2019 to generate income, which in turn helped to buy the land in 2020 with the help of Welsh Government.
Professor Baillie said: “At its heart, our partnership is about creating a community nature trail in Abercynon. Cardiff University aims to support the community, providing expertise from groups like our Pharmabees project to help CVOA create pollinator friendly spaces and to provide linked educational resources.
“Green prescribing is very topical, but there is a need for more robust scientific evidence to help society gain a better understanding of the benefits it can bring to people’s lives. We will work with local GPs and patients in the Cynon Valley to capture how connecting with nature can promote health and well-being. Recording patients’ experiences of the nature trail will help us generate some real-world data on the benefits.”
The partnership forms part of Cardiff University’s Civic Mission, working in partnership with schools, colleges, organisations and communities of the Cardiff Capital Region, Wales, UK and internationally to promote social cohesion and improve levels of health, wealth and well-being.