A person at Budleigh Salteron beach in Devon bird watching and connecting actively to nature, with marshlands and hillsides in the background.

The Impact and Benefits of Connecting Actively to Nature

Connecting actively to nature can make a difference to your health and wellbeing. It can give you an enormous boost, improve your mood and reduce anxiety.

Feeling connected to nature is good for you. Being physically active is very good for you. Being naturally active is even better!

We are fortunate in Devon to have amazing outdoor environments. Such as, national parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, two stunning coastlines, and huge areas of countryside. We have also learnt that sometimes the most valuable nature is the nature on our doorstep. Such as the local park, urban footpath, the local beach, or seafront.

The Connecting Actively to Nature (CAN) Funded Programme Officially Ends in July 2023

CAN, a Devon Local Nature Partnership (Devon LNP) programme, supported by Sport England and managed by Active Devon, ends in July 2023.

Since 2018 we’ve been supporting partners to create new opportunities and improve existing ones for people aged over 55 in Devon to connect actively to nature. The aim has always been to normalise physical activity in nature for people who:

  • may be isolated.
  • have a long-term condition.
  • face barriers to movement.
  • find it difficult to get to areas of nature.

More than 2500 individuals have benefitted directly from CAN. The programme has also been central to local and national conversations about the value and methods of effective green social prescribing. This has only been possible through the amazing CAN partnerships. Over 60 individuals and organisations have made CAN a reality by delivering close to 250 projects.

What Next?

Working in partnership with Devon LNP, we will look to develop new ways to enable and encourage people in Devon to be active in green and blue spaces for improved health and wellbeing.

Many CAN projects have continued to run as sustainable activities. This means CAN will live on in many places and in many forms, which was always the intended outcome. We also know from partners that as a ripple effect of their involvement they are now delivering their own nature connection programmes. So, the system is stronger and more resilient.

Evidence and Insight

CAN has added to the evidence around the health and wellbeing benefits of connecting with nature, and spending time outdoors. In the near future we will release evidence and insight from our evaluation partner at the University of Exeter. This will be alongside a programme report outlining the impact, challenges and learning from CAN. All of which will add to the existing evidence base. For example, DEFRA’s (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) ‘Evidence Statement.’ They found strong evidence linking improved mental health, wellbeing and physical health to the use of green spaces and exposure to the natural world. You’ll find the DEFRA report and lots more on the Devon LNP website.

The Future

We have learnt that nature is not a level playing field. The same people who face societal and health inequalities are also less likely to access nature. The CAN programme has innovated and tested approaches to making it easier for these groups to get the benefits that some of us take for granted.

We are hopeful of securing future funding and resources to allow us to continue the great work of CAN in new ways, based on all the learning and insight from the past five years.

Join the Conversation

To be part of the conversation in Devon and support the drive for everyone to be able to connect actively with nature, join our Naturally Healthy Forum. With over 200 members the forum is the place to connect, learn, share and influence nature connection for health and wellbeing in Devon! To join the forum please get in touch with Active Devon’s Tom Mack.