People in Nottingham could soon be prescribed an afternoon spent enjoying the waterways to help tackle mental and physical health problems.
As part of a community project designed to make use of the Nottingham and Beeston Canal, people may be given a prescription of paddleboarding, a well-being walk or some canalside gardening as an alternative therapy.
The Thriving Communities project has been awarded nearly £50,000 through the National Academy of Social Prescribing, Arts Council England, Natural England and Historic England.
The project will give people living along the length of the canal, access to a variety of activities to help boost their physical and mental health, including canoe and paddleboard sessions, gardening along the canal, volunteering opportunities and wellbeing walks. There will also be the opportunity to join photography courses, arts activities, cookery classes and, when Covid restrictions allow, communal meals at venues along the canal.
The project is being run by through a partnership including the Canal & River Trust, Nottingham Community & Voluntary Service, Notts County Foundation, Canalside Heritage Centre, Nottingham Photographers Hub and local foodbank, Himmah.
Linny Beaumont, partnerships & external relationships manager for the Canal & River Trust, said: “Research tells us that spending time by water can help us to feel happier and healthier and we firmly believe that the canal, which runs for five miles through some of our most populated areas, is uniquely placed to help address some of the big health challenges faced in the city.
“We’re delighted to have secured this funding, and to be working with such a talented and diverse partnership to give local people access to a range of activities which we really hope will give them the help they need.”
Social prescribing is where GPs and other primary care professionals refer people to non-clinical services to support their health and well-being.
Typically this is done through a link worker who will connect people with local charities, services and community groups for practical and emotional support.
The Thriving Communities project complements work that the Canal & River Trust has already been doing around green social prescribing.
It also recently committed with Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Nottingham Integrated Care Partnership (ICP) to fund a Community Well-being Coordinator to support the recently announced Green Social Prescribing project across the city and county.
Linny Beaumont added: “With so many people living and working a stone’s throw from Nottinghamshire’s waterways we think they have a key role to play in increasing the amount of social prescribing taking place in the county.
"We’re looking forward to seeing more people getting out onto the water, and the towpath, as a way of improving their physical and mental health.”
More than 75,000 people in Nottingham live within one kilometre of a waterway and the Nottingham and Beeston Canal runs for five miles from Meadow Lane Lock near Trent Bridge to Beeston Lock.
Eco-activist and paddleboarder, Lizzie Carr, knows the power of spending time on the water and has shared her passion of protecting it through the founding of Planet Patrol.
She said: "Planet Patrol combines mental, physical and environmental wellbeing through activity based litter picks in nature and we have spent the last few years on the waterways in Nottingham with volunteers joining us on paddle boards to litter pick.
"The overall benefits of being connected to nature whilst simultaneously giving back to the planet, learning a new skills and meeting like-minded people in your local community cannot be underestimated."