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Showcasing the South Downs landscape for mental health

An new arts project has shone a spotlight on the power of National Parks to aid mental health and wellbeing.

People from across the region have taken part in Timescape – a series of workshops helping them learn ancient arts and craft techniques such as cordaging, felting, weaving, painting, and pottery.

The free sessions, delivered by Havant-based charity Artscape, took place at Amberley Museum and Butser Ancient Farm, near Waterlooville, in Hampshire.

An exhibition of all their amazing artwork and craftsmanship took place at New Park Centre in Chichester.

Clare Grover, who participated in Timescape showing off some of her artistic creations
Clare Grover, who participated in Timescape showing off some of her artistic creations. ©South Downs National Park Authority

Clare Grover, from Bishop’s Waltham, Hampshire, made a collection of pots and wet-felt hats and was full of praise about the impact of the project on her wellbeing.

She said: “It’s just been so rewarding. This has given me my confidence back and it’s encouraged me so much that I now go back to Butser to volunteer every week.”

Adrian Mundy, from Portsmouth, made a set of spoons from birch wood. He said: “I’m an environmental artist and this has given me the opportunity to try some more primitive craft techniques.”

Graham Hearn, from Worthing, said: “Nature is my medicine – it’s better than any antidepressant. It’s been wonderful to be part of this project and I’ve met some great people.”

Chanctonbury Ring in the South Downs National Park ©Tim Kahane.jpg

Natural health strategy

The project is part of the National Park’s ‘natural health’ strategy. Its first Health and Wellbeing Strategy was published three years ago, setting out a vision to connect more people with nature to help improve both mental and physical health.

Mandie Molyneux, Director of Artscape, said: “Doing this arts project in the National Park has been phenomenal – who wouldn’t feel uplifted and empowered by being in this amazing space!”

Anne Rehill, who manages the National Park’s people, health and wellbeing work, said: “National Parks contribute to the mental and physical health of the nation, providing a place for escape, adventure, enjoyment, inspiration and reflection.

“The benefits of green spaces for health are well-researched and, with the right resources, National Parks have the potential to really expand our ‘natural health service’ to support the amazing work of the NHS. The impact on the people who have participated in this project has been life-changing in some cases and I’m humbled by the fact that our funding has made such a difference.”

Timescape will take place again this year, with sessions at Butser Ancient Farm and Fishbourne Roman Palace. The project is aimed at those experiencing loneliness and isolation who would like to meet new people and be creative. To register your interest please email kate.drake@southdowns.gov.uk The deadline to apply is 5pm on 4 March.

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