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The Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty team have been awarded more than £380,000 to expand their health and wellbeing project, ‘Stepping into Nature’. Supported by the National Lottery Community Fund, the project aims to help older people live happier and healthier lives by connecting with nature.

Over the past three years the Stepping into Nature project has created opportunities for people to get closer to nature, particularly for older adults, including those living with dementia and their care partners in the Dorset AONB area. Now, thanks to the new funding, the project can reach more people living in the North and East of Dorset.

Councillor Laura Miller, Dorset Council’s Cabinet member for Adult Social Care and Health, said:  ‘Stepping Into Nature is a fantastic project that has helped improve the health and lives of many. With this excellent news, the team will be able to reach out to more people, expand the project and really highlight how fabulous accessing the natural world around us can be for our health, both mental and physical.

‘To date, Stepping into Nature has helped over 1000 people find new places to go, learn new skills and meet like-minded people. The project’s current offer includes wellbeing walks among woodlands, reedbeds and coastal settings as well as singing, crafting and history based activities. The activities are dementia friendly, generally low cost and are at an introductory level so no experience, knowledge or skill is required!’

sing and stroll
Sing and Stroll – part of the Stepping into Nature project. Photo: Steph Aburrow

Chairman of the Dorset AONB, Jim White said: ‘Connecting with Dorset’s landscape, wildlife, heritage and culture is really important for everyone. It benefits our physical health and mental wellbeing and provides opportunities for physical activity, social interaction, relaxation and inspiration.’

Dorset AONB Stepping into Nature project officer Julie Hammon added: ‘We are really proud of what the project and our partner organisations and community groups have achieved so far. We look forward to hearing from and helping even more people in the future.’

Anyone who would like help to improve accessibility or engagement with nature near them can get in touch with the Stepping into Nature team via  stepin2nature@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk or to find out more about the project and activities available visit www.stepin2nature.org.

Stepping into Nature was initially a 3-year £340K National Lottery Community Fund project (2017-2020), led by the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty team and hosted by Dorset Council. The new funding will start in March 2020 and will continue until March 2023.

The Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty covers over 40% of Dorset, stretching from Lyme Regis in the west, along the coast to Poole Harbour in the east, and north to Hambledon Hill near Blandford Forum.

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