Wellbeing works - Aspire and Blenheim Estate’s Social Prescribing partnership

By Cheryl Huntbach

What is social prescribing?

In April, Aspire launched an exciting new social prescribing project with Blenheim Estate, supported by research from Oxford University. Where appropriate, social prescribing involves providing non-medical alternatives to alleviate mental health difficulties, combating mental distress, physical inactivity, social isolation and reliance on medical services through wellbeing and social opportunities rooted in nature and the outdoors - and in this case, in the beautiful grounds of Blenheim Estate!

Connecting with nature for wellness

We have all felt the impact of the pandemic on our physical health, mental health, and wellbeing in some way. Studies show that spending time outdoors and increasing activity levels has a positive effect on mood and overall wellbeing. With this in mind, our social prescribing partnership developed this six-week walking intervention project to integrate elements of physical activity with general support, with specific aims in mind for project participants: 

  • Focus on goals, aspirations and getting connected with the community 
  • Stay active
  • Build positive relationships
  • Connect with professional support as needed
  • Explore opportunities to return to education, training, volunteering or employment 
  • Build motivation and self-esteem - and feel accomplished on completion of the six-week project
  • Identify alternative, non-medical ways to manage wellbeing
  • Demonstrate the benefits of connecting with nature

The impact of Blenheim wellbeing walks to date

Our first cohort has completed a six-week set of walks through the grounds of Blenheim Estate, taking in the stunning views of the palace and gardens whilst learning more about the history of the UNESCO World Heritage site, getting to know other participants, and finishing with refreshments. Throughout the series of walks, participants had the opportunity to complete light ‘homework’ based on each week’s learning - and some were very keen to use their new knowledge and get stuck in to complete and return the homework.

"This has been great for my mental health, given me more confidence and I know it is okay not to be ‘okay’"

Feedback from our first cohort has been resoundingly positive around the impact of the project on their mental health and general wellbeing - with initial results from anonymous fitness tracker data indicating an increase in activity levels for all participants involved. Many have confided that the sessions have enabled them to overcome the initial anxiety felt at the prospect of joining a project and meeting new people, to feel comfortable and understood amongst others with shared experiences, expressing genuine engagement and appreciation for the weekly opportunity to be mindful and reflective.

"I made a new friend and found amazing support from key workers – I now have more confidence to do new things"

Many participants have made new friends and developed the confidence to explore other opportunities for personal development after spending their walks chatting with fellow participants and support workers about how else they can support their own personal wellbeing in a way that best suits them - from new hobbies, access to learning, volunteering and support to get ‘work ready’.

"This has made me more active and I now want to get out into the countryside more"

Find out more about social prescribing