Open Country champions countryside access for people of all abilities and normally runs weekly activities for people with a disability including tandeming, walking, conservation and nature study.
The charity has developed a number of befriending services to ensure their members are well supported both practically and emotionally. As well as telephone befriending and helping with errands, the charity has been holding virtual spinning sessions for those members missing their weekly tandem rides. They have also written and shared blogs about wellbeing, gardening tips and the best wildlife webcams to enjoy nature from the comfort of their home.
Open Country’s ‘Breakfree’ packs, which feature local walks suitable for all abilities around Harrogate, Nidderdale and Wharfedale, have also been shared with the wider community. Lizzie Hughes, Countryside Activities Officer, says:
The Breakfree packs were developed with wheelchair users and those with limited mobility in mind. But they’ve been perfect for families and local people who have been limited to an hour’s exercise per day around their local area. The packs are free to download and will help you discover footpaths on your doorstep you might never have known were there.
Open Country has also sent out 100 free ‘Sunflower of Hope’ packs to members and local people. David Shaftoe, Chief Officer of Open Country, explains:
The ‘Sunflower of Hope’ challenge has been designed to be a bit of fun during this dark time. Participants have received compostable pots, giant sunflower seeds, labels, compost and growing instructions. We’re asking them to start sharing photos, videos and stories of their sunflower growing experiences so that we can spread a bit of joy over the next few months. The tallest sunflower grown by Yorkshire Day (Saturday 1st August) will win a special prize and all participants will receive a certificate for their green-fingered work.
According to the ONS, more than a third of disabled adults say they spent too much time alone since lockdown, compared with a fifth of non-disabled adults. The research, conducted in late April, also showed that more than twice as many disabled adults (8.3%) as non-disabled adults (3.6%) said they often or always felt lonely.
During this pandemic, our members and volunteers have been able to take solace in nature, whether that’s in their gardens or on their daily walks. Nature has been able to flourish while the rest of the world has been locked down and we are now making very tentative steps to work out how we can enjoy the countryside together again as the restrictions lift.
For inspiration on local walks in the Harrogate District, Nidderdale and Wharfedale, download Open Country’s Breakfree packs at www.opencountry.org.uk/breakfree