Yorkshire Times
Voice of the North
4:14 PM 21st May 2019

RSBP Fairburn Ings Launches New Wellbeing Walks During Dementia Awareness Week 2019

Wellbeing Walk group at St Aidan’s - photo Janine Brown-Jones
Wellbeing Walk group at St Aidan’s - photo Janine Brown-Jones
During Dementia Awareness Week, RSPB Fairburn Ings is starting its new programme of monthly, dementia-friendly ‘Wellbeing Walks’ to help connect more people with the wonderful wild places of the Aire Valley.

Building on the success of the programme at nearby sister site, RSPB St Aidan’s nature park, the first Fairburn Ings walk will take place on Thursday 23 May before becoming a monthly event. The free, sociable stroll is open to everyone and is designed to be dementia-friendly.

It is aimed at improving physical and mental wellbeing and will give people the opportunity to socialise and take in the stunning scenery and wildlife of the Aire Valley. The walk, accompanied by RSPB Volunteer Rangers, presents an exciting opportunity particularly for those who may lack the confidence or ability to enjoy the outdoors by themselves.

The idea for the initiative was the awareness that older people, in particular, can become quite isolated and stop participating in activities they previously enjoyed, as they become less able.

Janine Brown-Jones, Volunteer Coordinator at St Aidan’s and founder of the initiative, said:

“We’re delighted to be rolling out the Wellbeing Walks at Fairburn Ings having seen how much they’re growing in popularity at St Aidan’s as the word spreads. What’s great to see is that the social aspect is as important as the walk - in adverse weather conditions, the visitors seem just as happy to sit in the visitor centre and have a chat over a coffee.

“Some regulars are wanting to extend their walks to explore more of the site, which our brilliant volunteers are happy to accompany them in doing. This monthly walk at Fairburn will give them another opportunity to enjoy the outdoors.”

While limited, there is evidence to suggest the benefits from accessing the natural environment include:

Improved emotional health
Decreased stress, agitation, anxiety, apathy and depression
Improved physical health, including fitness, sleep and appetite
Improved memory and attention
Improved sense of wellbeing, independence, self-esteem and control.
Increased social interaction, sense of belonging and decreased loneliness and isolation.

After kicking things off on 23 May, the Wellbeing Walks at Fairburn will be held on the second Thursday of each month starting in June, giving people the opportunity to also attend the St Aidan’s walks, which have taken place on the last Wednesday of every month since July 2018.

St Aidan’s is registered as a ‘Dementia Friendly’ site having offered ‘Dementia Awareness’ training to all staff and visitor-facing volunteers and it is hoped that Fairburn will soon follow.