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Connect with nature during Mental Health Awareness Week

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It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and the Mental Health Foundation has chosen `nature’ as the theme because there’s strong evidence of the powerful benefits of nature for our mental health.

Research shows that even small contacts with nature can reduce feelings of isolation and can be effective in protecting mental health and preventing distress.

One of Stroud District Council’s key priorities is to promote the health and wellbeing of our communities.

Here are ten places around the Stroud district where you can connect with nature:

1. Canals

There are miles of canal towpath to explore, most of which is flat and wheelchair friendly, and abundant nature along both the Stroudwater canal and Thames and Severn canal. Cotswold Canals Connected has published two maps featuring eight cycling and walking routes along and near the Stroudwater canal as part of its Slow Canal Trail. The event also includes pop-up performances, children’s activities, light and sound installations and art exhibitions, but there are plenty of quiet spots to be found too. More details, with downloadable maps from www.cotswoldcanalsconnected.org

2. Stratford Park

The 56-acre park near the centre of Stroud contains an arboretum, lake, large grassy lawns, woodland, stream, sensory garden and children’s play area. It’s free to access with a large free-of-charge car park; dogs on leads are welcome. https://www.stroud.gov.uk/stratfordpark

3. Museum in the Park Walled Garden

The tranquil, award winning contemporary garden is based on a traditional four-square design with a dipping pond at the centre. You’ll find abundant flower beds, an orchard of Gloucestershire apple and pear trees, a meadow area, culinary learning garden and a lawned open space. Entry is free and must be booked in advance.  https://museuminthepark.org.uk/the-walled-garden

4. Selsley, Minchinhampton and Rodborough Commons

There’s wide open space, miles of footpaths and spectacular views from each of the commons. Watch out for the cows that will be resident from mid-May and please pick up after your dog. Park in the free parking areas close to the road but not the verges. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/minchinhampton-and-rodborough-commons

5. Woodchester Park

There are acres of dog-friendly woodland to explore in the National Trust-owned park including five lakes and a children’s woodland play trail. Woodchester Mansion, an unfinished Neo-gothic mansion should be open from 21 May to welcome visitors on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays. You’ll need to park in the National Trust car park to access both park and Mansion. Free to NT members; £3 to visitors. More information about the park is at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/woodchester-park For the Mansion https://www.woodchestermansion.org.uk/  

6. Haresfield Beacon and Standish Woods

Enjoy spectacular sunsets over the Severn estuary towards the Forest of Dean and Brecon Beaconsthe car park. Standish Wood is full of bluebells. There’s a paid-for National Trust car park. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/haresfield-beacon-and-standish-wood

7. Laurie Lee Wildlife Way

This six-mile circular walk, created by Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, follows 10 poetry posts around the wildlife-rich Slad Valley. Each cedar post features a different poem by Gloucestershire’s most famous twentieth century writer, inspired by the landscape around him. The walk is very steep in places, but well worth the effort. An 11th post is located at the entrance to the Museum in the Park in Stroud.  https://www.gloucestershirewildlifetrust.co.uk/blog/sue-bradley/laurie-lee-wildlife-way

8. Wotton Hill

Follow part of the Cotswold Way up Wotton Hill for spectacular views of the Cotswold hills, South Gloucestershire, the Bristol Channel & Brecon Beacons. Continue through spring-flower filled Westridge Woods to North Nibley and the Tyndale Monument for more far reaching hilltop views.         

9. Twinberrow Woods

You’ll find more than nature in the 27 acre Twinberrow Wood, as it’s home to a community-led sculpture trail. Accessible by foot from Dursley, or limited roadside parking spaces. http://valevision.org.uk/dursley-sculpture-and-play-trail/         

10. Coaley Peak

Accessible on foot from Selsley Common, there are magnificent views from the edge of the 12-acre open grassland site at Coaley Peak. Free car parking; it’s an ideal spot to pull off the B4066 for a moment of calm and to feel like you’re on top of the world. https://www.gloucestershirewildlifetrust.co.uk/nature-reserves/coaley-peak

If you’d like company on a walk why not join a walking group? Stroud District Council’s free `led’ Health Walks take place around the district and are open to everyone, no matter your age or ability. Find out how to join one here:  https://www.strollinginstrouddistrict.org/

For more information about Mental Health Awareness Week and the Mental Health Foundation: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/

Please enjoy your time in nature responsibly:   

  • If you have a dog, pick up after it. If dog waste bins are full, either find another or take it home and dispose of with your household waste. You can report full dog waste bins on our website: https://www.stroud.gov.uk/#report
  • Take your litter home.
  • Be considerate with your parking. Many country lanes are narrow and unsuitable for parking. If car parks are full please return another time.
  • Please avoid Cam Peak which is taking a rest from visitors to recover from recent high footfall.
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