fbpx Skip to main content

Grants announced by South Downs National Park to help bring boost to mental health

Grants announced by South Downs National Park to help bring boost to mental health

April 23, 2024

A new grants scheme is being launched today to help more people from urban areas access the South Downs National Park for its mental health and wellbeing benefits.

The profound impact of green spaces and being in nature to help manage depression, anxiety, stress and loneliness are becoming better understood as each year goes by.

Now, ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week in May, the National Park Authority is launching an initiative to help local community groups make the most of the tranquil and wildlife-rich landscape on their doorstep.

The Health and Wellbeing Travel Grants are particularly aimed at communities on the urban fringes across Sussex, Hampshire and Surrey that may not have had access to the National Park before and might struggle with transport costs.

The initiative is being launched in partnership with Community Transport Sussex, which is able to provide a minibus service to and from the National Park.

Kate Drake enjoying an uplifting walk in the National Park

Kate Drake, Health and Wellbeing Officer for the National Park, said: “National Parks are part of the nation’s support system for health and wellbeing and research shows that as little as two hours per week outdoors can be beneficial to one’s health and quality of life.

“We conducted a study and found that while some people want to access the National Park for its mental health benefits, the issue of transport can be a barrier for some groups.

“These grants aim to overcome this by providing community groups with extra support to cover travel costs so they can come to the South Downs and have a wonderful, uplifting and restoring day-out surrounded by nature.

“This initiative is part of our widening work around green social prescribing, providing a ‘natural health service’ to help people dealing with a range of mental and physical issues.

“We’ve also identified a number of ‘health and wellbeing hubs’ in the National Park that are ideal places for groups to visit and get involved in nature-based activities.”

The travel grants are up to the value of £250 to cover transport costs.

The grants are being funded by the National Park Authority, with additional support from the South Downs Trust, the official charity of the National Park.

Find out more and apply for a grant by visiting www.southdowns.gov.uk/health-wellbeing/health-and-wellbeing-travel-grants/

  • There is growing evidence to suggest that being in nature has positive effects on people’s mental health. Studies have shown that green spaces can lower levels of stress (Wells et al, 2003) and reduce rates of depression and anxiety, reduce cortisol levels (Park et al, 2010) and improve general well-being. Not only can a simple walk in nature boost your mood but also improve your cognitive function and memory (Berman et al, 2012). Green spaces can provide a buffer against the negative health impacts of stressful life events.
  • A study by ecologists, psychologists and economists from Griffith University in Australia found that visits to National Parks around the world may result in improved mental health valued at about $US 6 trillion (£4.8 trillion).
  • The NHS Long Term Plan puts more emphasis on prevention, including social prescribing.
  • Mental illness accounts for 23 per cent of all ill-health in England and affects more than one in four of the population at any time. With over 50 per cent of the population living within one hour’s travel of a National Park, the National Parks can support measures to help improve health and wellbeing objectives. The South Downs National Park has a population of 117,000 people and 2.2m people live within 10km of its boundary.