Our Natural Health Service is a national cross government initiative, led by Scottish Natural Heritage, which aims to create a step change in how the natural environment can be used, valued and protected as a precious resource which supports our health and wellbeing. The programme has three strategic interventions, one of which is Green Health Partnerships (GHP’s) which are taking a whole systems approach at a local level to making the most of our green spaces for public health benefits.
There is growing evidence which describes the many benefits of being outdoors in contact with nature. It not only motivates us to take more regular physical activity but also enables us to connect with and care about our local greenspaces and communities, therefore promoting social contact and intergenerational connections, tackling social isolation, and promoting sustainability. The natural environment also has restorative qualities and can help reduce stress, improve mood, and enhance recovery. However, not enough of us are making use of our outdoor spaces often enough to reap these benefits.
North Ayrshire has an abundance of fabulous green (and blue) spaces. We are lucky to have rural and urban green spaces, coastal communities, and islands on our doorstep. However, despite more than half of adults 59% visiting the outdoors at least once a week in the last year, the gap between adults in the least deprived areas compared to those in the most deprived areas has widened.
North Ayrshire Green Health Partnership (NAGHP) is one of four national GHP demonstration projects in Scotland who are working with their local communities to encourage people to spend more time outdoors in contact with nature every day through promoting green volunteering, pastimes, recreation, learning and active travel. We are also supporting local community groups and organisations to develop nature-based initiatives such as health walks, green gyms and community growing for everyone to enjoy; and exploring how these initiatives can support people who are in recovery or have a long term condition to live well.
This report outlines the key achievements of the NAGHP in Year 2 and the value that the partnership has brought to the delivery of green health activity locally since August 2019. In addition, as a result of COVID-19 partners and community groups from the GHP have shown incredible resilience and creativity in supporting their communities and service users, examples of these are highlighted in this report. Unfortunately, GHP staff employed by The Conservation Volunteers were furloughed from May – mid July 2020, putting a hold on a number of pieces of work in the short term. This was a joint partnership decision made by those within the local Green Health Partnership and national Our Natural Health Service. There were too many limitations on what we as a GHP could deliver due to COVID-19. The limitations on capacity within the steering group has also had an impact on delivery.
Governance and Reporting
The NAGHP began in November 2017 following community and partner engagement and upon securing the support of the North Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) and approval by the Community Planning Partnership (CPP). A multi-agency steering group was created which is accountable to the Active Communities Strategic Partnership. In Year 2 the NAGHP has:
Continued our 1 multi-agency steering group, chaired by NHS Ayrshire and Arran (Public Health), which has membership from 11 different agencies/public bodies. It has met on 6 different occasions to progress the work of the NA GHP in year 2. There have been 2 virtual meetings due to restrictions on meetings during COVID-19 lockdown.
Governance continues via the Active Communities Strategic Partnership - 1 meeting attended to report on the NAGHP plans, activities, and achievements and a further 2 sessions were attended incorporating the launch and commitment to the Healthy Weight Strategy and Whole Systems Approach work in NA to which the NAGHP contributes.
1 Green Health Partnership Logic Model, 1 Action Plan and 1 Communications Plan has focussed work of the NA GHP in Year 2.
Reported on progress and shared learning and practice nationally by attending 3 ONHS National meetings including operational, communications, and evaluation-based meetings. 1 in person and 2 virtual.
Mainstreaming NAGHP priorities in North Ayrshire Plans, Strategies and Further
The NA GHP steering group has been working to integrate green health activity and the work of the NA GHP into mainstream plans and strategies in North Ayrshire this includes:
Maintaining 2 NA GHP actions in the North Ayrshire Healthy Weight Strategy and Physical Activity Work plan.
Including 2 actions relating to ONHS and the GHP in the Public Health Business Plan and the Public Health and Priorities Delivery Group
Maintaining NHS Greenspace for health work within NHS Ayrshire and Arran Sustainability Work Plan and contributing to the greenspace element of the NHS Sustainability Assessment and Biodiversity Report.
Included within the NHS A&A Operating Plan.
The North Ayrshire Green Health Partnership is made up of numerous pieces of funding which are detailed as follows:
Since Year 1 we have been awarded approximately £150,000 of core GHP funding from Scottish Natural Heritage (on behalf of national ONHS partners) for years 1 and 2 of the project and an indication of funding for year 3.
Secured approximately £40K of additional funding from 2 sources (NHS Endowments, Smarter Choices Smarter Places Open Fund) for a Healthy and Active Journeys Project Officer initiative.
Secured approximately £230K for delivery of green health programmes in North Ayrshire and a partner GHP in Dundee.
Aligned to this NHS Ayrshire & Arran has secured the following funding to support the roll out of the NHS Greenspace partnership work in North Ayrshire:
Secured approximately £120,000 of funding from 2 sources (Woodland In and Around Towns and NHS Endowments) for woodland management and paths creation at Ayrshire Central Hospital.
Secured approximately £66,000 of funding from the Sustrans Community Links fund to create a dual use pedestrian/ cycle path at the Ayrshire Central Hospital.
In the beginning of Year 2, September 2019 there was a change of personnel in the role of the North Ayrshire Green Health Partnership Senior Project Officer. This new dedicated staff member from The Conservation Volunteers continued and progressed work from the previous Green Health Partnership Team Leader.
Maintained in kind support from core staff in NHS Ayrshire and Arran (Public Health); KA Leisure and TCV to ensure a strategic overview and delivery of the programme.
Increased in kind support from 4 third sector organisations (The Scottish Wildlife Trust, KA Leisure; Barrmill Community Garden and The Ayrshire Community Trust) and 2 Public Sector Organisations (North Ayrshire Council’s Breaking Ground Project and Trinity Active Travel Hub) to lead community based green health referral projects.
Further Developing Green Health Services and Initiatives
To support community based green health projects the Healthy Active Journeys (HAJ) Senior Project Officer has:
Established relationships with staff at Castlepark Community Centre based within a known area of deprivation, adjacent to the local community hospital that benefited from a new woodland walk and cycle paths in recent years. Following public engagement 2 new Health Walks commenced attracting 4 regular attendees. Participants have a greater understanding of the benefits of walking to maintain health and wellbeing and it has become an important social activity. If walks are cancelled they organise to go another time. One member of the group said, “It is good to be part of this walking group and socialise with other people”.
Several participants have mentioned this walking group is helping with their bereavement. “I enjoy this walk because it keeps my mind busy, after losing my son”.
Continued to grow the Green Gym™ at Kilwinning Library that was established in Year 1. In total 34 sessions were delivered for 23 different participants in its first year. Volunteers take part in sessions at Kilwinning Library and Almswall Park. Greenspaces have been improved through litter picking, planting bulbs and wildflowers, and providing a general tidying up around the community. Comments from the local community as they pass are positive and they are grateful for the hard work put in by the Green Gym.
One participant said: “I have been looking forward to this day and feel happy and refreshed to spend the whole day outside"
Another said: “really enjoyed making a pesto with the spinach and tasting it, a good recipe to add to my list of favourites!”
Delivered 1 toddler walk with 4 adults and 5 children. Despite living in Castlepark, two of the families were unaware of the Ayrshire Central Hospital Woodland trail and were inspired to return.
Delivered 2 outdoor learning sessions with 11 pupils and 7 teachers and assistants from Elderbank Primary School for Supported Learning and Enhanced Deaf Provision. The group actively travelled (bus and walking) to Ayrshire Central Hospital from the school and enjoyed a range of activities including planting wildflowers, food growing, nature scavenger hunt, bird watching and fairy door discovery.
One of the teachers said, “it has been a great experience for the children today, some of them have never been on public transport before and they really enjoyed that!”
Engagement with staff at ACH began early 2020 and following consultation and a few trials, monthly walks were scheduled, sadly only one of these took place due to COVID -19.
Delivered 1 Staff Health Walk at NHS Ayrshire Central Hospital to around 5 staff members in support of DrEAM Week.
Provided pedometers for staff and patients on 2 wards at Woodland View Community Mental Health Facility to support 2 walking challenges during COVID-19.
Staff and partners from the NA GHP have been involved in 3 development sessions as part of a conglomerate of organisations working towards securing the future of Eglinton Community Garden. 5 organisations are committed to continue a hive of Green Health activity that benefits people’s physical, mental and social wellbeing.
Delivered 2 Family Engagement Events at Lochshore in Kilbirnie. Events to highlight different nature-based activities that can be done beside Kilbirnie Loch. This is part of a wider project ongoing at Kilbirnie Loch.
Jumpstart (child healthy weight team) and The Trinity Active Travel Hub delivered 1 treasure hunt for juniors (aged 5-9) and children with additional support needs. Getting them outdoors and active during the October school holiday. In total they engaged with 10 children and 7 adults.
NA GHP created a second Green Health Development Fund worth a total of £60K. As the previous delivery mechanism of Participatory Budgeting was not available alternative delivery options were considered and plans agreed to deliver the fund as a small grant. Delivery was delayed due to COVID -19.
Delivered 1 Green Health Network Event in North Coast with 14 individuals taking part and representing 13 different community groups/organisations. Visited Arran as part of the Green Health Network – meeting 3 community groups and organisations and 1 local person wishing to explore opportunities in Green Health to benefit community.
Delivered 1 community TCV Green Gym training session to 15 people in March at Fullarton Connexions, in Irvine.
Developing green health referral pathways and effective signposting
Engaging with NHS Quit to Get Fit to establish a referral pathway into our Green Health Referral Activities in North Ayrshire.
Engaging with SAMH employment officer to develop pathways for clients and service users into Green Health Referral Activities.
1 Green Health Referral meeting to discuss progress/developments and the introduction of new organisations. 7 green health referral projects including 9 people from 6 different organisations participated. Groups received updated posters and materials to provide information to people and referral organisations.
Logos of The Trinity, TCV The Conservation Volunteers, Barrmill Conservation Group, Breaking Ground, Scottish Wildlife Trust, KA Leisure, The Ayrshire Community Trust
Attended 9 physiotherapy classes run in conjunction with KA Leisure to strengthen referral pathways and promote recovery and rehabilitation via Green Health Referral Activities. Over 100 people attended from December 2019 – March 2020 and included Cardiac Rehabilitation, Stroke, Learning Disabilities Circuit, Keep Fit, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and Hip & Knee.
Attended 2 meetings with Community Link Workers to strengthen referral pathways between them and GP practices and the Green Health Referral Activities.
Organised visit to Woodland View Hospital to develop referral pathways for community mental health patients and suitable Green Health Referral Activities.
Attended 1 Nordic Walk sessions with 6 attendees ran by Trinity Active Travel Hub to help promote the work of the Green Health Referral Activities.
Attended 1 Mind and Be Active Health Walk sessions with 13 attendees ran by KA Leisure. Promoting the NA GHP and in particular the Green Health Referral Activities to the group.
Attended 2 Virtual Walk and Talk session delivered by KA Leisure as an introduction into utilising technology during COVID-19 to engage with people in North Ayrshire around starting back at Green Health activities. Important for reconnecting people and getting people physically active.
Information and Communication
In order to actively communicate the benefits to health of being outdoors in contact with nature and the work of the NAGHP the steering group has:
NAGHP Social [email protected]
1 Twitter account with 342 followers. This has doubled in the last 12 months. With 236 Tweets, 284 Mentions, and 1,331 Profile Visits.
1 Facebook page with 336 followers.
Published 1 blog and 1 vlog, both were shared with the NA GHP Steering Group, NAGHP Network and posted on Facebook/Twitter.
Published 11 posts including 5 videos on the @NAGreenHealth Facebook/Twitter pages. To support communities to keep active at home, in the garden or in a local greenspace during COVID-19 lockdown. Between March and June, a variety of activities from Green Gym stretching/warm-up exercises to educational activities for families were included.
Programme of Social Media Tweets via Public Health from May – July to promote green health included 23 Tweets, 66 retweets and 153 likes.
Began the creation of NHS A&A Public Pages promoting green health and the North Ayrshire Green Health Partnership, final pages delayed as a result of COVID 19.
Updated the North Ayrshire GHP pages hosted on the KA Leisure website to include a range of green health activities to support people being active and engaged in nature during COVID-19.
Interviewed for an article in the NHS Daring to Succeed Newsletter highlighting the impact and work of the North Ayrshire Green Health Partnership and broader work of the NHS Greenspace for Health project. The final article will be distributed in September 2020.
Produced 2 short films to promote the work of the NAGHP, one for the general public and the other aimed at Allied Health Professionals to highlight the benefits of referral to green health activities.
Produced 1 local animation of the ONHS film featuring local greenspaces in NA in collaboration with the ONHS Operational Team.
Identified green health case studies to be included in a DrEAM Ambassador leaflet, promoting a range green health activity options available in NA.
Good News Story shared with the NHS A&A board promoting the work of the NA GHP and NHS Greenspace for Health projects.
Developed information to be included in the COVID 19 NHS Keep Well pages to promote Green Health during lockdown.
Developed information to be included in the Mental Health and Wellbeing App promoting the benefits of green health.
NHS A&A Health Information and Resource Service created an e- newsletter for schools across Ayrshire to promote digital resources to improve health and wellbeing. A Green Health section was developed, which collated a range of information and links to resources for educational activities.
Information shared widely within the CPP and locality Hubs during lockdown to promote the benefits of being outdoors, engaging in nature.
Updating our North Ayrshire Green Health pages by updating our green health activities web page hosted on the KA Leisure website. Adding lots of content to support people being active during COVID-19.
Campaigns and Events
Supported the North Ayrshire Drop Everything And Move (DrEAM) approach to getting more people more active more often with a walk for staff at Ayrshire Central Hospital in November 2019.
Attended North Ayrshire Councils first Climate Change Convention. As a representative from the NA GHP participating in round table discussions on how to best tackle issues around Greenspace usage and Climate Change.
Meetings, Seminars and Workshops
Attended 1 DrEAM Planning Meeting
Attended 1 meeting with the NA Education Health and Wellbeing Lead to promote green health in education setting and links with the NAGHP.
Visited Barrmill Community Garden to discuss potential to accept referrals from the NAGHP.
Delivered 1 Workshop at the Job Centre in North Ayrshire based around the opportunities available throughout the NA GHP. Whether those seeking employment to attend Kilwinning Green Gym to boost their prospects or promoting our Green Health Referral Activities.
Attended 1 KA Leisure Team Meeting to help strengthen relationship with the Active North Ayrshire referral programme and Green Health Referral Activities.
Created New Partnerships by visiting the Sports Scotland National Centre Inverclyde in Largs.
Attended 2 NHS Greenspace Maintenance Steering Group for Ayrshire Central Hospital.
Attended The Ayrshire Community Trust 20th Year Anniversary Celebration Event to promote the NA GHP and benefits of green health.
Attended and organised speakers for 1 Children and Young Peoples Mental Health Seminar – Green Health. Approx. 25 people attended from various outdoor education and conservation organisations. Promoting the positive impact Green Health activities can have on Children and Young people.
Attended The Trinity Active Travel Hub Stakeholder/Volunteer Meeting. Participating in roundtable discussions on the future direction of the Hub.
Delivered a stall for Mental Health and Wellbeing Fayre at Mansfield Trinity Church. Attendance was around 60 people from the church and local communities.
Attended MacMillan Move More Network to present to 5 people about the potential for referral into Green Health Activities
Delivered a stall for Christmas Wellbeing Fayre in Bridgend, Kilbirnie to around 40 local community members.
Represented the NA GHP at 2 North Ayrshire Food Forum Events. Building partnerships with various groups and organisations that have an interest in eradicating food poverty in North Ayrshire.
Delivered a stall at North Ayrshire Council Education Services Mental Health and Wellbeing Fayre. This was aimed at education staff around North Ayrshire e.g. teachers, and support assistants, around 50 in attendance.
Developing a partnership with the Dirrans Centre, a community based rehabilitative support centre. Services promote independence, self-management, and meaningful activity. Links being made with local green health contacts via the GHP Network.
Presented at the Trinity Active Travel Hub North Ayrshire Cycle Network Meeting to around 30 participants. Promoting the NA GHP, Green Health Development Fund, Green Health Network, and training. Building new partnerships with cycling groups and organisations.
Presented at Arran and Garnock Valley Locality Planning Partnership meetings to around 30 people, to promote the NAGHP.
Delivered a stall for Healthy Homes Event ran by Home Energy Scotland to around 60 people from the local community in Irvine.
Attended the NA Diabetes Support Group to promote green health referrals and activities to around 9 people.
Presented to the NA AHP Extended Leadership Group to around 20 people promoting referral to Green Health activities.
Promoting Active Travel
Healthy Active Journeys Project - Highlights July 2019 - June 2020
The overall aim of this project was to deliver Green Health activities and encourage active travel within the communities of Blacklands, Kilwinning and Castlepark, Irvine.
Participants received materials to encourage active travel including maps, bus leaflets and self-guided walks.
Participants have discovered new places to walk and cycle in their local area.
Developed the Three walks in Castlepark leaflet, containing various walking routes leaving from the Castlepark Community Centre, highlighting ten benefits of walking and different websites to find more information about the health walks in Irvine.
Promoted and attended Kilwinning Stakeholder consultation organised by the Trinity Active Travel Hub and Sustrans. Helping to improve pathways and cycle-tracks for the community of Kilwinning, thus helping to improve the capacity for Active Travel.
Working in collaboration with the Sustrans Employer Engagement Officer staff have been able to access (at specified times) e- bike hire, walk leader training, weekly travel smart sessions (from Nov 2019), Cycle Ride Leader training.
Sustrans Employer Engagement Officer and local Active Travel Hubs attend monthly Corporate Induction sessions to promote active travel to all new staff within NHS A&A.
Sustrans Employer Engagement Officer completes an Annual Travel survey for staff based at Ayrshire Central Hospital.
Monitoring and Evaluation
Successfully collated and submitted data from a range of partners and the NA GHP to support the National Evaluation Pilot.
4 Senior Stakeholders participated in the National Evaluation telephone interviews.
Contributed to 2 different focus groups with Napier University for NatureScot (previously Scottish Natural Heritage) Green Health Partnership Report as part of Our Natural Health Service evaluating the effectiveness of the Green Health Partnerships.
Produced 1 Green Health Development Fund Report for the first round of funding delivered from March 2018 – March 2019. This highlights key leaning from the groups who received funding and delivered Green Health activities across the 6 localities.
Recovery from Covid-19 highlights of lockdown and community stories
The North Ayrshire Green Health Partnership Senior Project Officer and Healthy Active Journeys Project Officers were on furlough from May 2020 to mid-July 2020. Therefore, most activities were paused including plans for the development fund, green health week and green gym, network events and walks.
However, partners and community groups from the GHP have shown incredible resilience and creativity in supporting their communities and service users, examples of these are highlighted in this below:
The Trinity Active Travel Hub created a video of what their participants had been up to during lockdown, including cycling, walking and Nordic walking. They mentioned that “We miss what we do so much, and we can’t wait to see everyone’s smiley faces again.”
During lockdown they have been promoting their new Facebook page, and emailing participants monthly to check in with them. Providing cycling and walking maps to people and loaning out all their Trinity bikes to essential workers. During lockdown, some staff supported other essential work in NA e.g. working at the food bank. In partnership with the active travel hubs in Kilmarnock and Ayr the first virtual Ayrshire Women’s Cycling Festival took place. Encouraging and promoting cycling using a variety of methods e.g. publishing a number of inspirational stories from local women, providing ‘How to’ bike maintenance videos to carry out on your own bike, bling your bike competition, live interviews plus loads more.
In preparation for returning they are very active on Facebook, promoting activities/events. Registering people for activities when they can be restarted. A lot more people have been walking and cycling during lockdown there is now a need to capture this change to show people that getting around NA on bike or on foot is indeed possible and pleasant.
A staff members states that its “Great to see communities come together during such a challenging time. Makes me proud to be in the role I am and also proud to be working in NA.”
AHSMBC (Arran High School Mountain Biking Club)
During lockdown they were unable to continue any group activities. Instead they helped to maintain the wider communities’ bikes and refurbish discarded bikes from the local waste transfer station to sell back into the community. Despite being unable to meet their young club members they have observed them within their family groups, staying active, riding bikes, and maintaining trails during lockdown having developed the confidence and skills to do this without supervision.
KA Leisure has a diverse and dedicated walking programme in North Ayrshire. With the impact of COVID-19 creative use of technology was used to get people active and socialising within the guidelines. Virtual walks engage participants from their own homes using either WhatsApp on a mobile device or Facebook. Sessions are led by a team member who walks in their local area while recording a live video of their surroundings and encouraging participants taking part to chat. Participants can take part whilst out a walk on their own or can take part from their own home where they are encouraged to march on the spot and be active throughout their home. Since April there have been 280 attendances and 33 Virtual Walks delivered.
Angus and Linda, now regular walkers say “When lockdown started in mid-March 2020, we were only allowed out for 1 hour of exercise a day - so we went out for a walk from the house every day for an hour.
As lockdown eased, we kept walking every day for a little longer. We then joined an online keep fit lesson followed by walk talk both from KA leisure.
We have since kept walking every day which has helped our physical and mental health, and we have both lost weight due to this. We are now attending one of the KA Leisure walking groups and have just took part a the Paths For All volunteer walk leader training course for KA Leisure.”
KA Leisure have also developed Buddy walks, a walk on a one to one basis with a member of the Active Lifestyles Team. There have been 14 Buddy walks delivered since April. After attending a Buddy walk participants progress into the small group walks.
In additional to the interactive virtual walks, the Team have recorded 9 virtual walks on video which are shared with participants via email and allows participants to experience the local scenery, points of interest and nature from their own home. Participants are encouraged to march on the spot and be active in their own home or garden while watching the pre-recorded walk. Since April 108 recorded virtual walks have been emailed to participants.
With Government guidelines now permitting small group outdoor exercise, during July the Active Lifestyle Team completed update training on restrictions and changes required in relation to COVID-19 for leading small group walks and an update on first aid provision during group walks. With training now complete a programme of 6 weekly walks commenced at the start of August with walks taking place across North Ayrshire. Each walk can accommodate 4 Active North Ayrshire participants along with the staff member leading the walk.
391 phone calls were made since the start of lockdown for those that were particularly vulnerable, socially isolated, or anxious, to provide support to encourage them to remain active.
Jumpstart the NHS Ayrshire & Arran Child Healthy Weight team worked with 6 families from April to June to deliver virtual outdoor exercise sessions in Greenspace. A total of 8 children (2 with additional support need) and 6 adults participated.
Food growing and horticulture
The Community Adult Learning Disability OT Team encouraged their service users to spend time outside and provided information on local parks and walking routes near their homes. The team also created growing packs; with potatoes, sunflowers and pea seeds and mindfulness activities (including colouring in, word quizzes etc.) Approximately 40 activity packs were issued to service users known to the team via doorstep drop offs.
Green Health activities have returned with COVID secure policies. A restructured healthy garden group has been established for participants, 3 hourly garden sessions with a maximum of 4 participants. All activities are planned in advance with social distancing, and sanitising stations etc. in place. In between sessions, staff clean tools and surfaces and polytunnels are kept open throughout sessions. Due to a lack of Green Health activity, social anxieties and low mood are now being reported by many service users who have had significant mental health challenges due to lack of routines, structure, social contact etc. Therapy sessions started in a phased return to support clients to return to independent travel, to begin small routines and to have outdoor space to have purposeful occupation.
Organic Growers of Fairlie have been open throughout lockdown at their community garden with social distancing and hygiene procedures in place. They have, of course, been gardening. This has been a real plus for the health of their members and the community of Fairlie. So many people have commented on “how great it has been to be able to get out of the house and come to the garden for some peace and gardening”. It has been a real health benefit which others in the community who have walked in our space have benefited from as well. Families have been especially happy to have a safe place of refuge for their children to play outdoors. It has been a bonus for mental and physical health.
They have even been able to utilise the allotments in new creative ways. One of their new members is a fitness instructor and has kindly volunteered to have socially distanced exercise classes at the garden during this time when not working. Every Saturday there has been a popular fitness class which 12 to 16 people attend regularly which has been a real bonus to the garden and to those attending. They are doing this free of charge and they can't commend them enough.
A lot of their members are quite elderly with many having health conditions that have not allowed them to attend the garden as they have been shielding and others have family who are shielding. The garden volunteers have stepped in to look after their beds for them, even delivering the produce to at home sometimes. Also, people who have offered their beds for community growing. Organic growers of Fairlie have managed to give away over 40 bags of potatoes for those unable to get out to people in Largs and about 30 in Fairlie. One person is regularly baking and donating her home baking to housebound local residents.
Arran Community Land Initiative (ACLI) Have had 3 volunteer days per week mostly those over 60 or unemployed. They provided 10 veg boxes per week to vulnerable families and extended their cultivatable area.
They have improved a track to make walking easier and fitted grip strips to boardwalk to reduce slips. Volunteers have relied on the goodwill of a retired horticulturalist to help out. ACLI were fortunate to receive some emergency COVID-19 funding, to support summer activities. As they recover from the impact of COVID, ACLI want to reach out in a more organised fashion through the NHS and Arran CVS to people that may benefit from the greenspace activities they can provide. “We want to continue providing veg boxes to those that benefit from them. We have also had some interest from business in taking produce. We would like to pay volunteer expenses such as travel to reduce barriers to attendance. We hope to extend our network of paths to allow access to all areas of the site.”
Given the large area of ground and working primarily in the open ACLI have restricted access to indoor areas and supplied cleaning materials. Offering volunteering primarily to people who had been before and were not shielding or particularly vulnerable and able to get to the site.
In terms of changes to the community of Arran there is a greater interest in growing local food. Perhaps an awareness of the vulnerabilities all our communities contain within them. Whether change is ephemeral or here to stay depends on a range of factors. “We need to tackle the transport issue.” And “We have a donated polytunnel we hope to erect soon and would like kit out to allow use by people with varying abilities.”
For ACLI the highlights of lockdown was how the charity managed to cope, attracted people who wanted to work safely and for the common good. They provided articles for both the Arran Banner and Arran Voice which publicised what we were doing.
North Ayrshire Ranger Service continued to support Breaking Ground garden group members keeping weekly contact with the five members by North Ayrshire Ranger Service via text messages. The importance of supporting these individuals during this time of enforced isolation was keenly felt (zoom meetings felt not appropriate due to feelings of anxiety with IT).
A selection of vegetable seedlings and sunflower seeds were supplied to each group member for them to grow and nurture. Totalling over 50 plants. Once the growing season was well underway, their group members were further supplied with 25kg bags of compost, a selection of larger pots, and supporting canes to cater for their growing plants without cost being a burden. During delivery of both vegetable seedlings and later on, materials, time was taken by the Rangers to have a face to face (at safe distance of course) blether with each member, finding out if they had any issues, and assisting or sing-posting where necessary. As stated by one of the Rangers “It was obvious that the opportunity to chat was gratefully received by them.” During visits, photos were taken, and during the growing season photos were sent to them by members to show off their plants. These were celebrated and posted on social media. Several videos were created to encourage public to grow vegetables and how to look after them and posted on social media.
Contact continues through lockdown and plans are being put in place to help provide additional activities that individuals could do at home if they wished.
North Ayrshire Ranger Service provided 300+ plants for NAC Youth Services that were sown and brought on to supply to the NAC Youth Services. Once established, these vegetables, and sunflowers, were transported to a local community hub where Youth Service staff then dispersed the plants to 200+ children to engage them in mindful activities, and potentially healthy eating.
Plants included: sunflowers, lettuce, peas, cabbage, broccoli, leeks, spring onions, carrots, peppers, chillies, aubergines, courgettes, and squashes.
North Ayrshire Ranger Service provided activities and support for garden volunteers during lockdown, the Ranger Service has kept regular contact with their conservation volunteers. During Phase 2 however, the Ranger Service responded to requests from 3 volunteers who were desperate to get outside and do something worthwhile. As they were regular independent volunteers, the Ranger Service provided guidance and practical tasks within the gardens and orchard of Eglinton Park. The Ranger Service have kept regular contact with these three volunteers via messaging, phone calls and face to face meetings to provide onsite guidance. They continue to work, reaping the benefits of being mindfully active outdoors.
During lockdown, the Ranger Service provided consistent communications with all volunteers on the mailing list (approximately 25). These conversations took place over email and in some instances, they were over messages on the phone or a telephone call. Of these volunteers there were 7 who would engage in regular conversations which included what they had been doing to pass their time, how they were feeling within the current situation and just general chit chat as well as updates on the current volunteering situation. This little bit of support and regular contact, helped to encourage interactions, especially with those who were isolated, and provided them with something to look forward to and was seen to lift spirits.
North Ayrshire Ranger Service continued to support Junior Rangers. They had their last face to face session mid-March, just before lockdown. After that the Ranger Service have been emailing the 12 group members monthly, with the main aims of keeping then informed re what the Ranger Service have been doing and current situation re when Junior Rangers maybe able to resume (or not), as well as finding out what they've been up to and generally touching base. A Facebook post went up at the beginning of June, including photos and what they've been doing compiled from their words. A Facebook post also went up at the end of April about JR Kieran and his wildlife/veg gardening - he sent pics and blurb about how he'd been making areas wildlife friendly in his garden - sowing meadow, growing potatoes, making bee homes etc.
The Rangers believe moving forwards “the break will be longer than anticipated, will be looking for ideas from them about ways we can keep connected virtually to keep things moving in the gap before we can meet up again in person.”
Communities and Greenspaces
Whiting Bay and District Improvements Association as part of the response to help their community they offered litter pickers to those who would like to use their daily exercise time to pick up litter. The weather this year encouraged a rapid growth and some of our walkways became choked with bracken, brambles and miscellanies shrubs. Volunteers responded well to this challenge and cut back paths and hedgerows to ensure when visitors did come over, they had good access to rights of way. In previous times this was a group activity but during lockdown it became individual or family initiative with people using their own equipment or having a long-term loan of Improvements loppers/litter pickers etc.
The organisation maintains and operates the two public toilets in the village and Coronavirus brought its challenges for the organisation and to for those volunteers responsible for cleaning. They developed a more robust enhanced regime to ensure the
toilets remained open so that people of all ages could maximise their time in the outdoors.
The annual, popular Fun Week in July had to be cancelled this year, but they maintained the tradition of crowning a Bay Queen (with social distancing on the jetty at the Centre of the village) with restricted publicity. Normally a sand sculpture competition takes place, so by sending in photos of the sculptures to their Facebook page and the judging process took place online.
Moving forward with activities that are COVID-secure “We anticipate that the effects of Coronavirus will remain with us for some considerable time and intend to ensure that all our events - Clean Up’s, socials events and our programme of activities incorporates this aspect.”
As a close-knit community on Arran, there was a good deal of awareness of those who might be vulnerable and wish regular contact and assistance. This operated informally but co-operation between voluntary groups increased as a result of the crisis.
The lasting and sobering awareness of vulnerability communities have to the virus and also concern about the financial implications of the measures which have had to be taken and the effects on the local economy. This is the thoughts on how communities will be changed due to COVID-19.
Christina Pieraccini on what impact has COVID-19 had on our communities? “It has made many realise how precarious their situation and support network is. How much people depend on socialising with other people for positive mental health”
North Ayrshire Ranger Service provided support to the Kilwinning Community Hub at the start of lockdown by delivering vital emergency food packages to those in need in and around the Kilwinning area. Throughout the running of the community hub the Ranger Service was part of an exceptional team that provided 6781 food packages in total.
Childcare hubs were attended by North Ayrshire Ranger Service, to aid in providing assistance to the group leaders by covering the provision of outdoor educational activities with the children. The groups were of mixed age groups between 5 and 12 and included children of key workers and those from vulnerable backgrounds. Each session covered between 2 & 2.5 hours and on occasions a Ranger would make a double visit in order to ensure a particular group was getting something out of the activities. The hubs tended to be mostly the same children every week.
There has been a massive positive response to COVID-19 in our communities. Whether it be growing extra fruit and veg and delivering it to foodbanks, access to walking maps/routes within local areas encouraging physical activity, keeping greenspace tidy, loaning equipment and learning to grow our own food to mention a few. Supporting local community groups to deliver green health activities has never been more important and the partners we work with that have shared their experience are evidence of this.
The NA GHP has brought new groups and communities together and the highlights included demonstrate the passion and experience we have in NA to use our natural environment in a variety of ways to improve the health and wellbeing of our local communities. Thank you to all those who have contributed to this report.
Produced by Elaine Caldow and Gillian Jennings (Public Health NHS Ayrshire & Arran) and David Meechan (The Conservation Volunteers) on behalf of The North Ayrshire Green Health Partnership.