“Often people simply need someone to hold their hand and simply show them that place"

“With mental health, I’m a big believer in healing yourself by being outdoors,” says Julie Moore.

Thursday, 8th April 2021, 7:00 am
Saima Rehman (centre) with her group from ShipShape at Low Bradfield during the Connecting Steps project

But she has a word of caution for Outdoor Citizens who’ve been enthusiastically exercising in our local parks and countryside since Lockdown 1.“Some people have been shielding and have not left the house for a year,” she says. “Some people have been terrified.

"So I’d say to people, be aware of that, be kind, and smile. Remember that person you’re passing may not have spoken to anyone all week."Julie is a health trainer at northern Sheffield’s SOAR community regeneration charity, and has been introducing Sheffielders who rarely get outside to the remarkable countryside of Sheffield’s ‘Lakeland’ thanks to Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust’s ‘Connecting Steps’ project.“Visiting in a supportive group helps with people’s anxiety about leaving the house, and when they get to somewhere like Low Bradfield they say they wouldn’t have known it existed. It gives them a new lease of life to get out there and see what’s on their doorstep.”Connecting Steps is part of the Sheffield Lakeland Landscape Partnership project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and works with community groups to help people visit and learn about the countryside around the 14 reservoirs and dams scattered between Langsett, Strines, More Hall and Redmires.Staff from Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust (SRWT) take the groups on walks and lead craft and art sessions in the landscape, and help people who’ve often never before visited the lakes of north west Sheffield to learn about the local wildlife and history.Since the summer of 2019, the project has helped community groups from across Sheffield to introduce over 50 people to the lakes, but then Covid 19 arrived and put the project on hold until this year, when SRWT Project Assistant Lucy Watkins hopes new groups will come forward once visits and group activities are permitted again.“Just seeing a flower budding or a bird singing takes away from the sadness and worry of what the news brings, because those things are completely independent of the man-made anxious noisy world we live in,” she says. “People who come out here love the hills and space and wildness, and being able to wander, and often have never realised that opportunity was so close to the city.”Just now, Lucy suggests taking regular photos of how a local green space changes through the spring and posting them to SRWT’s @WildatHeart project social media accounts. She says seeing nature carrying on in front of you taps into something deep within us all that helps diminish the stresses and anxieties many of us have felt over the last year.The project works with local visitor attractions like Our Cow Molly and Stoneface Creative, and promotes how public transport like buses to Bradfield and trams to Malin Bridge can enable visits from all over South Yorkshire. Interested groups can contact Lucy at [email protected] Rehman works as a health trainer for ShipShape in Sharrow and the Israac Somali Community Association, and after visiting Peak District hotspots like Bakewell and the Derwent valley for years with her family admits that places like Agden and High Bradfield were completely new to her.She says the language barrier, lack of knowledge of where to go and how to get there, and simple lack of confidence often prevents people from Sheffield’s BAME communities visiting their local countryside.“Often people simply need someone to hold their hand and simply show them that place.”Thanks to Lucy’s help, Saima was able to help over a dozen women visit their local countryside for the first time, in some cases after living here for over 20 years.“One woman, a single mother whose husband had left her several years ago, came with us to Bradfield, and she was amazed. She said ‘I’ve been living in a flat with three children, I’ve never had the chance to get out and see such a beautiful open place.”“She’d been really struggling with stress and depression, and now she was dancing round the trees.

"It was such fun to see!”For more visit https://linktr.ee/wildwellbeing.

Group from ShipShape at Damflask Reservoir during the Connecting Steps project
Group from ShipShape in the Rivelin Valley
Mushrooms at a Connecting Steps walk at Agden Reservoir
Sheffield ME/Fibromyalgia Group Connecting Steps trip to Low Bradfield