The wonderful benefits of the South Downs for children’s mental health

Did you know that the mental health benefits of going for a walk can last seven hours?

The link between the great outdoors and wellness is nothing new, but mounting evidence across a range of studies points towards there being a real scientific connection between experiencing the natural world and a long-lasting positive impact on mental health.

Whether it’s a long country walk along Harting Down, interacting with wildlife at Pulborough Brooks, or soaking up the awe-inspiring views at Cuckmere Haven, the South Downs is a treasure trove of feel-good opportunities.

With that in mind we’re supporting Children’s Mental Health Week, which runs this year from February 4 to February 10. The theme this year is to take steps to be “Healthy: Inside and Out”.

Computers, social media and homework are all part of normal life for children, but I would suggest that taking an afternoon out in the National Park once a month and “getting away from it all” will do wonders for wellness – for both the children and the parents!

So here are four of my own ideas to be healthy inside and out:

  1. Get the walking boots ready and see how much you can complete of Mission: Explore National Parks. Pick up a copy from the South Downs Centre Gift Shop.
  2. Visit Queen Elizabeth Country Park’s story trail – it’s lots of fun! There’s also a children’s play areas for all ages, adventure play area, assault course, orienteering trail, pond, picnic area and café. A great afternoon out for all the family.
  3. Check out our accessible routes – they are great for pushchairs, wheelchairs and people with limited mobility.
  4. Use these Nature Detectives sheets and see if you can identify some winter trees. Head for Kingley Vale to see one of Europe’s ancient yew forests. A truly memorable experience!

And as well as feeling great, there’s an additional bonus. Experiencing this amazing natural world on our doorstep is often free, or a very low cost compared to other children’s activities.

So, what are you waiting for? Enjoy YOUR National Park and start reaping the mental health benefits of this inspiring place.

Written by Jonathan Dean, Education Officer at the South Downs National Park Authority