Public Health England’s national Director of Health and Wellbeing joined engagement officers from Northumberland National Park Authority to see their innovative schemes to improve our health and wellbeing.
The visit by Professor Kevin Fenton is part of a joint initiative between National Parks England and Public Health England to work together to design and deliver practical activities in order to secure better public health outcomes.
First stop was a visit to the construction site of The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre at Hadrian’s Wall. The £14.8 million flagship project is set to showcase the vital importance of landscape to the nation’s health and wellbeing. Thanks to National Lottery players, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has granted £7.8m to the project to support the delivery of more than 1,000 unique events between 2017 and 2020.
Professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England, said: “Some of the UK’s most pressing health challenges – such as obesity, mental health issues, and physical inactivity – can all be influenced by the quality and accessibility of supportive environments. Our National Parks provide us with a number of opportunities to improve our health and wellbeing. Northumberland National Park is working on some truly exciting and innovative initiatives to do just this, and we are delighted to have formed this partnership. We look forward to working with them to promote the benefits that our natural environment can offer to our health.”
After visiting The Sill, the group met representatives from Active Northumberland and participants on the Walk to Wellbeing programme for a leisurely stroll at Falstone.
The Walk to Wellbeing scheme is a series of progressive walks led by trained Walking for Health leaders in partnership with Northumberland National Park Authority and Active Northumberland, which manages libraries, leisure facilities and services on behalf of the County Council. Originally set up as a pilot scheme in 2009, Walk to Wellbeing is now an established annual programme. Mike Sanderson, a Park resident and Bellingham Healthy Walk leader accompanied the group alongside David Young from Hexham.
Tony Gates, Northumberland National Park Authority Chief Executive, said: “We’re delighted that colleagues from Public Health England could join us to see how the Park can make a unique and valuable contribution towards improving people’s health and wellbeing.
“The Sill is going to be much more than just a building when it opens next year. It represents our ambition to provide an even greater number and varied range of activities across the Park to offer something for everyone, regardless of age, ability or background. Many events and activities have been specifically designed to address health inequalities, tackle isolation and encourage lifestyle changes using the landscape.
“Our vision is to create even more opportunities for children to learn outside the classroom on our schools programmes, deliver more pilot projects targeting at risk groups, increase the number of young people volunteering in the Park, offer more guided walks, community archaeology and art projects to encourage confidence and skills, as well as extending our highly successful Walk to Wellbeing programme with Active Northumberland.
“Through working together we can explore how the countryside and our fantastic wild places can complement more traditional approaches to improving people’s physical and mental health and help them to cope with the stresses of everyday life.”