"Our girls really enjoyed the pirates. Enjoyed making badges, flags and loved planting the seeds. We enjoyed the nature trail."
In August 2021, Nature Nurture created a new festival of 'Waterway Wellbeing day' in Christchurch Meadows, on the bank of the Thames.
This reached a broad audience, inspiring recognition and celebration of Reading's underused waterways.
We achieved this by collaborating with an array of organisations whose work supports health and wellbeing through nature connection, horticulture and creativity.
Funded by Thames Water Community Fund, Waterway Wellbeing Day was Nature Nurture's first large-scale community event after lockdown.
Covid-19 had enabled many of us to discover the parks, woodlands and waterways within walking distance from our homes, but this was not the case for everyone. Many of our partner schools around Reading told us that their families were spending more time than ever indoors.
During the ease out of lockdown, we felt it was especially important to catalyse nature connections for those that need it most, particularly since studies show that being near water has amazing benefits for mental health, marginally even more than being near green space. Reading's waterways of the Kennet and the Thames flow through the town. We recognised them as an underused resource by the hard to reach communities that we specialise in connecting to urban nature.
We believe that creative arts are the conduit to that nature connection : so, on the day we delivered fun, engaging family led activities.
Our trio of pirates integrated quests to explore the biodiversity of the Thames.
We provided river-inspired art and craft activities, singalongs with a local musician, litter picking, mindfulness nature immersion activities, Waterway Bingo, taster conservation activities with our partners The Conservation Volunteers and Wild Waterway Walks with local naturalist and author, Adrian Lawson.
Nature Nurture's proud, active presence in the Reading Green Wellbeing Network connected us with the full spectrum of local providers who deliver Green Care and nature-based interventions to people with a wide range of needs in and around Reading. When Director Natalie put the call out, they were keen to get on board. With these partners, Nature Nurture created a walk through festival of Water and wellbeing in the meadow, alongside raising awareness and taster activities, with other members of Reading Green Wellbeing Network.
The full list of groups who provided activities on the day is testament to the vitality of Reading's green prescribing and therapeutic arts sector : Food4Families, The Museum of English Rural Life, The Ridgeline Trust, The Conservation Volunteers, Green Health Thames Valley, The Engine Room, Green Trees Education, McAlistair Hood, Alice May Yoga, naturalist Adrian Lawson, Integrated Research and Development Centre, volunteers Aquaman Alan Kellas and pirate David Wall and volunteers from Thames Water.
Reading Green Wellbeing Network's participation in this event was supported by the Thriving Communities Fund, 'Wild Being' programme. Managed by Reading Voluntary Action, this programme aims to improve and increase social prescribing community activities by bringing together place-based partnerships of local voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise projects.
The Thriving Communities Fund has been made possible thanks to funding from the National Academy for Social Prescribing, Arts Council England, Natural England and Historic England, with support from NHS England and NHS Improvement, Sport England, the Office for Civil Society, the Money & Pensions Service and NHS Charities Together.
Keen to use the opportunity to promote mindful water usage in the home and inform the public of their service, Thames Water had a stand at the event with interactive models demonstrating sustainable practice.
Waterway Wellbeing Day at the Christchurch Meadows was an amazing opportunity for people and children to get involved in so many interesting activities and socialize once again after COVID. It gave opportunities to people to know about Food4Families gardens, our food growing sessions and all sorts of activities for the children. It was also a great way of publicity for different organisations. It was an eye-opener for so many people of all the Nature activities and events that are being organized.
Sharon Fitton, Project Coordinator, Food4Families.