Nature Heals Seed Fund grants help groups unleash the power of natural world

High Sheriff's fund tackles loneliness and mental health

Nature Heals Seed Fund grants help groups unleash the power of natural world

GRANTS totalling more than £10,000 have been awarded by Dorset Community Foundation to 12 grass roots groups and charities who are using nature to improve people’s quality of life.

The Nature Heals Seed Fund was launched in partnership with Dorset High Sheriff Sibyl Fine King who has made promoting the healing power of the natural world as one of the themes of her shrieval year.

The fund is aimed at small projects using nature to benefit people and one of the beneficiaries is doing just that. Chat Café is using its £1,000 grant to take its lonely and isolated members out on nature walks.

The group has a network of 25 cafes across the area with ‘happy to chat’ tables for people to befriend others. The group also runs 11 chat clubs in cafes. The first walk has already taken place with 16 members enjoying a stroll and a boat trip around Christchurch and Mudeford.

“The grant is amazing,” said organiser Anne Anderson. “It is allowing us to organise these walks, which are so good for people who really lack the confidence to go out. Being out in nature really restores their soul and you can see them blossom.”

The group, which has come into contact with more than 1,200 people in just five months, is already planning another walk and bus trip, as well as a beach get-together. “We have a wide range of needs, some with disabilities, some with learning difficulties and others who are just desperately lonely,” said Mrs Anderson. “This grant will help us bring them together.”

The Big Yellow Bus Garden Project community garden at Shillingstone, near Sturminster Newton, has been awarded £1,000 for adaptive tools, as well as items like kneelers and portable sunshades, to help older people and those with disabilities take part in horticultural activities.

The four acre site has a community orchard, growing space and formal gardens and is used by young people, older people, refugees and adults with disabilities. A third of the food grown goes to Sturminster Foodbank, a third to Blandford Foodbank and the rest taken home by gardeners.

Dorset High Sheriff Sibyl Fine King (
Dorset High Sheriff Sibyl Fine King (

Founder Paul Williams said: “The grant will help us make the garden more accessible to people so we are very pleased. We want as many people as possible to be out enjoying working in the garden.

“People get real satisfaction and a feeling of wellbeing from knowing they are helping to grow produce that is feeding people. When you plant a seed and nurture it, seeing it grow actually feeds you back and when people see they have produced a crop of potatoes or carrots, the feeling of self-worth in them is palpable.”

Being out in nature really restores their soul and you can see them blossom

West Bay Discovery Centre has been awarded £500 to run children’s art workshops to help them appreciate the geology and the fossils of the cliffs and beaches at West Bay. The first workshop saw youngsters aged three spent a day at the beach to create their own cliff formations using sand, cardboard and stones to help understand how they are formed over millions of years. The next workshop will see them create cyanotype photographs – using sunlight to expose and ‘fix’ shadows left by objects.

Staff member Liz Bryant said the workshops will help young people appreciate the geology at West Bay in a new and creative way. “They had a really lovely day at the beach and it was nice to see so many families,” he said.

“The children were able to explore and celebrate not just how it looks but what it is made from, how old is it, where has it come from, and what does it mean to us in our lives now and in the future.”

Transition Town Poole will use a £1,000 grant to run gardening workshops for people struggling with their mental health at Tatnam Organic Patch, a one acre community garden and wildlife site in Oakdale.

The workshops, which will be open to all local people, will feature photography, drawing, plant identification, sowing flowers and making plant labels. “These workshops will use natural materials and will bring into focus the wildlife, plantings and calm, natural environment of the garden,” said staff member Manuela Boeckle.

The High Sheriff said: “These projects are fantastic, each one of them is enlightened, creative and kind. Thank you to the groups for connecting with nature and making an impact on people and communities.”

Dorset Community Foundation director Grant Robson said he is proud to have connected so many worthwhile projects with a donor who cares so much about using nature as a healing tool. “We are very thankful for Sybil’s support for this fund and delighted that her generosity will fuel so much good work.

“These are all small projects but they are having a huge impact.”

Find out more about Nature Heals Seed Fund here.

Pictured above: Youngsters at the Big Yellow Bus Garden Project in Shillingstone, families on the beach at West Bay Discovery Centre’s geology workshop and Chat Café members on their first stroll and boat trip around Christchurch

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