My first article as the new Chair of Devon Local Nature Partnership! I am delighted to take on this role and am excited about the opportunities and work streams that we are developing over the next 12 months. I am very grateful to Suzanne Goodfellow, our outgoing chair, for all her hard work and for leaving the Partnership in such good shape. We wish her all the very best in her new role as Chair of the Devon Wildlife Trust.
So Spring is here!! As I write this the birds are singing, the blossom is on the cherry tree, and despite putting it off, I am going to have to get the mower out soon! How are you feeling after this long winter? Bit jaded, achy in the morning, slightly out of shape? As a North Devon GP I am all too aware of the toll modern life takes on us physically and mentally. Here in Devon we are lucky to live in one of the most beautiful parts of the country and yet many of us find it difficult to enjoy this fantastic resource due to the time pressures of our daily life. We drive to work or school and spend much of our time inside. More concerning is that much of this time is spent in front of screens. A recent study from Oxford university showed that our children are spending an average of nearly five hours a day in front of them. This leads to a reduction in exercise, a disconnect from our natural world, and is just not good for us!
There is a huge amount of evidence that spending time in our natural environment improves our physical and mental health. One of the three main priorities of Natural Devon is to reconnect people with nature. To help us do this our partners have come together to organise Naturally Healthy May. The aim of this initiative is simply to encourage us all to get active outdoors to improve our health and wellbeing.
It isn’t a pill or a potion, but, consider reconnecting with nature as a prescription. One that costs nothing, has no side effects, is guaranteed to make you feel better and is actually fun! It is so easy to do – just step outside to start with! It can be as simple as a walk around the park or stopping on your way to work to listen to a robin or sniff a flower. It can be as adventurous as diving off Lundy Island or canoeing down the Dart. The most important thing is that you enjoy it. The more you do the greater the benefit and the more you will want to do. Think of it as an opportunity to invest a bit of time in looking after yourself, your family and this amazing place we call home.
If you need inspiration we have a range of activities to tempt you, organised by partners such as Exmoor National Park, Expressive Arts, East Devon District Council, The Woodland Trust and North Devon AONB. These include guided walks, boat trips, canoe safaris, Forest Chi classes, willow weaving and bird watching to name just a few. To find out more visit the Naturally Healthy 2018 web pages
We really hope that you will rise to the challenge and why not get you friends and local community involved? Spread the word, share what you are doing using #StepOutside and follow us on Twitter: @Devon_LNP and Facebook: @DevonLNP. We would love to hear what you are up to and help inspire others.
See you outside soon!
Dr James Szymankiewicz
Chair of the Devon Local Nature Partnership and GP in the Combe Coastal Practice, Ilfracombe