Feeling the soil in your hands, listening to bird song, smelling the wild garlic growing in the woods, watching leaf buds unfurl, tasting the first ripe tomato….. so many people experience a feeling of connection and wellbeing from being in the natural world.

Helping people stay connected to nature is so important in these worrying and lonely times. In response to the enforced closure of the care farm, the Fold’s army of care farm volunteers have launched ‘Natter and Nature’, a different way of keeping vulnerable people in the community connected to nature.

The Fold Care Farm, offers therapeutic farm based activities for adults and young people with a range of support needs, such as learning disabilities, acquired brain injury and mental health issues.

Our participants tell us that coming to the Care Farm benefits their sense of wellbeing in a range of ways, from connecting with other people, being active in a peaceful outdoor environment, taking notice of the natural world, learning new skills in horticulture, and giving their time to contribute towards a shared goal of providing sustainably grown food for the community.

These benefits directly correspond with the ‘5 Ways to Wellbeing’ developed by the New Economics Foundation. Furthermore, there is growing body of evidence measuring the positive impact that ‘green therapies’ such as care farming, have on wellbeing and mental health.

Following government advice, our Care Farm is temporarily closed due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Realising the impact that social isolation and anxiety can have on our mental health and wellbeing, we put our minds to finding creative ways of supporting our Care Farm participants’ and have recently launched our ‘Natter and Nature’ service. Led by our team of amazing and dedicated volunteers, we have organised a rota of regular phone calls, set up a Facebook group for video messaging and play games such as ‘Care Farm Bingo’. Importantly, we also send weekly nature inspired activities in the post which have included basil growing kits, bird feed and bird nesting materials, mindfulness colouring sheets, news and photos from life on the farm.

These seemingly simple acts of having a chat with someone on the phone, watering some seedlings and observing them grow, watching birds come to feed and build nests, can help us feel connected to each other and the natural rhythms of nature going on around us, which seems especially comforting when our normal daily rhythms and interactions have suddenly changed.

One of our Care Farm participants has told us “I really miss the Fold, but have found the calls and contact with people from the Fold really uplifting, it makes me feel less alone on dark days, and gives me someone to share the positives with on better days.”

At the Fold, as a Community Interest Company, we are continually seeking ways in which we can creatively use the resources we have to support our local community. Encouraged by the positive response of our Care Farm participants we wanted to extend our volunteer led, ‘Natter and Nature’ service to the wider community.

We know that many people are currently self isolating or living alone, without very much, or even no access to the outside, natural environment. We are offering anyone who feels they may benefit the opportunity to join our ‘Natter and Nature’ community. People will receive regular phone calls from our volunteers who have DBS checks and training in safeguarding and data protection, and a weekly nature inspired activities sent in the post. Our aim is to support one another to feel connected to others in the community and the natural world, thereby supporting our sense of wellbeing and positive mental health.

If you, or anybody you know would be interested being part of the Fold’s ‘Natter and Nature’ community, please contact our natter and nature coordinator on  07786077831 or carefarm@thefold.org.uk. We would love to hear from you!