Natural England prescribes ponies and pasties to improve wellbeing

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Wild Dartmoor ponies.

Wild ponies at a Natural England nature reserve in Cornwall have been boosting people’s mental health thanks to a winter series of events.

Green social prescribing is the practice of supporting people to engage in nature-based activities. This can include activities such as walking, cycling, community gardening and food-growing projects, as well as practical conservation tasks such as tree planting.

But at Goss Moor National Nature Reserve (NNR), the herd of 26 wild Dartmoor and Shetland ponies have been the focus of a unique and free activity where attendees, either referred by a social prescribing link worker or self-referred, find the ponies using a tracking app.

Feedback from the four events held between December and March have been positive, with attendees saying they left feeling ‘informed, healthier, happier’ and would visit Goss Moor NNR again.

Janine Sargent, the Natural England visitor warden who ran the events, said:

Green Social Prescribing events like this are wonderful for connecting people with nature, which is great for mental health and wellbeing.

Goss Moor can be a very wild and windy place with tricky terrain, but our guests have had a great time during these walks, with free pasties being offered to participants to keep everyone sustained and fuelled.

The walks are part of a longer-term plan to recruit pony checking volunteers, acting as a ‘taster’ session for this role, and they have already been successful in attracting some potential new volunteers.

The wild ponies guided walks was one of 30 projects funded by the G7 Legacy Project.

Future events, including photography for mindfulness, a cycling event for young people and more pony activities will be posted on The Growing Goss Project Facebook Page.

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