Being outside brings huge benefits for our physical and mental health, but for a large majority of people, the COVID-19 pandemic has created many barriers to getting outside. It has seen an unprecedented disruption to people’s lives and has had an impact on people’s engagement in physical activity. In fact, Sport England’s Active Lives Survey data for Somerset shows that 23% of the county are inactive, doing less than 30 minutes of activity a week.

The ‘Get Outside in Somerset’ project is a joint initiative from Somerset Activity and Sports Partnership (SASP), the Community Council for Somerset (CCS), Spark Somerset, and Somerset Wildlife Trust, funded by Somerset County Council Public Health.

Get Outside in Somerset is empowering and supporting people of all abilities to get outside and move in more ways that suit them. This could be anything from a short walk or a spot of gardening, to going further afield and exploring in new ways.

The project brings together organisations from across the county to offer the people of Somerset the advice and tools they need to build their confidence and get outside, to spend time with family, have fun with friends, and enjoy the wonderful landscapes that Somerset has to offer.

A new website provides a platform for tips, advice and guidance on how to keep or get active outdoors whatever your ability. Covering a wide variety of activities, events and challenges, as well as information on a wide range of topics across health and wellbeing, the website will be regularly updated with new activities to inspire the Somerset community.

Getting outside in Somerset is for everyone and there are lots of activities for people of all abilities.

Sensory walks

Sensory walks help people with complex disabilities to connect with nature and get active. They use their senses to connect with their surroundings and have meaningful experiences. Sense have created a toolkit to help those who support those with disabilities and additional needs, to create sensory walks in their area. Visit: www.sense.org.uk/get-support/arts-sport-and-wellbeing/sense-sport/resources

Walking challenges

SASP has produced some inclusive challenges while out on walks in Somerset. From gathering pieces of nature to create artwork, to identifying colours and ‘Country Walks Bingo’, there is something for everyone. Visit the website for more details on how to get started: www.sasp.co.uk/walking-challenges

Caving

‘Learn to Cave’ is a company experienced in taking people of all abilities into the cases of the Mendip Hills. Led by caving experts you’ll descend into hidden caves to explore life underground. With years of experience of working with people of different abilities, they can tailor caving routes to the group, so everyone can have their own slice of adventure. Visit https://learntocave.com/

Accessible countryside

If you use a wheelchair or have trouble walking you can still enjoy the countryside. Look out for sites that offer tramper hire. At the National Trust’s Brean Down site, you can use these all-terrain mobility scooters to go off-road and explore the Down and fort. The tramper is for use by anyone who struggles with walking distances or up hills, or who has limited mobility of any kind. You don’t have to be registered disabled or have a Blue Badge to use it. Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk or for details of more accessible walks in Somerset visit www.accessiblecountryside.org.uk/somerset

Adventure on land and water

For those that fancy something a little more adventurous, Adventure Therapy offers free outdoor activities to children and adults with unique health conditions, impairments or limitations. From rock climbing and mountain biking to surfing and coasteering, they have a whole host of adventures to take part in, with specific project funding in Somerset. For more information visit www.adventuretherapy.org.uk

For more information on the Get Outside in Somerset project and to get involved, please visit www.GetOutsideInSomerset.co.uk

Submitted by Somerset Activity and Sports Partnership (SASP)