Get walking this winter

As we head into a second lockdown, most of us are yet again restricted on what we can and cannot do. But fear not, our circular walks, located across Lancashire and North Yorkshire, are just the thing to keep you healthy this winter.

Walking is a tonic for the soul

A view from Ribble Rivers Trust's latest circular walk, Park Book.

A view from our latest circular walk, Park Book.

During these difficult times we need to make sure we take care of ourselves; mentally and physically. Gentle walking is easy, free, and requires no complex training programmes. Often overlooked in favour of more vigorous sports and activities walking can help us to control our weight, build stamina, burn calories, and keep our heart and lungs healthy. According to the NHS even a 10-minute brisk walk can benefit our health.

At this time our mental wellbeing is also extremely important. Mental wellbeing relates to how we feel about ourselves; our ability to function well as an individual, feel connected to our loved ones, our ability to cope with life’s ups and downs, feeling valued, having a sense of purpose, and more.

Walking and other activities can improve our self-esteem and make us feel good about ourselves, and even short bursts of exercise are enough to boost energy levels and mood. It can also help to reduce stress and anxiety, making us feel calmer and more content.

Our last blog post covered the effects of rivers, trees, woodlands, and wildlife on our mental health. By exercising outdoors in wooded areas, parks, and near rivers it’s possible to combine both of these mood boosting activities, which at the moment could prove more valuable than ever.

Getting started

All of Ribble Rivers Trust's walks are come with a clean map, and comprehensive directions

All of our walks are come with a clean map, and comprehensive directions

Thanks to Ribble Life Together, our multiyear project funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, we have created a range of circular walks, and free of change guides, for you to enjoy. Each walk is between 2.2 miles to 8.5 miles (3.5km to 13.7km) long which means that there are opportunities for everyone, regardless of fitness level, location, or age group.

A total of fifteen walks will be created, with twelve already available on the Ribble Life Together website. The locations range from Stainforth in the Yorkshire Dales to Lytham and the Ribble Estuary.

The walks have been designed to take in some of the most beautiful areas of the Ribble catchment. With a focus on river features, most of the walk routes will be designed to pass our physical works such as areas where Ribble Rivers Trust have planted woodlands or carried out habitat schemes. All of the walks also feature local landmarks, and give information on the areas social, industrial & cultural heritage.

Each walk will have an accompanying digital walk guide, and interpretation panels containing further information about the area and wildlife. The digital walk guides are downloadable through our Ribble Life app, which is available on both Apple and Android, and contains additional photos, videos and audio recordings.

Other ways to get involved

At Ribble Rivers Trust we’re passionate about people enjoying their rivers. By teaching people about rivers, and by inspiring a love of nature and the outdoors, we hope to share our passion for rivers and their protection. You can help us by exploring our websites and social media pages and spreading our messages.

Our Lancashire Woodland Connect campaign is also helping to bring trees and woodlands to everyone. By planting over half a million trees in the next ten years we will not only lock up carbon, create new habitats for insects, fish, birds, and mammals, connect up existing habitats, and reduce flood risk to vulnerable communities: we will also help make Lancashire a greener, cleaner place to live for all the counties residents.

You can support our Lancashire Woodland Connect project by donating a tree for just £15.00, which you can dedicate in your name, or the name of a friend or loved one. Our supporter scheme also helps raise money for rivers and woodlands, with flexible monthly donations, you can become a supporter of the Ribble Rivers Trust and help us to improve our wonderful Ribble landscape for wildlife and people.

Woodlands; looking after your mind, body, and soul.

Today is both National Stress Awareness Day, and the mid-point of International Stress Awareness Week.

Our mental and physical health have never been more important, with many of us feeling the mental as well as physical impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that almost 20% of adults were experiencing depression when surveyed in June, almost double the pre-pandemic figure. Almost 85% of these people felt, in particular, stressed and anxious.

The good news is that research has shown that rivers, trees, woodlands, and wildlife can all boost our mental wellbeing. We all know that looking at a beautiful view, or soaking up the sunshine can improve our mood, but our connection to nature may go much further than that.

The mood boosting effects of woodlands

Recent studies have shown that those of us who live in greener areas, specifically those with good tree cover or woodlands close by, have fewer signs of anxiety and depression. This applies to all communities, from small villages, to built up inner city areas. Additionally, rivers and woodlands have been shown to improve our mood, reduce blood pressure and heart rate, improve attention spans, and help us to be more resilient to stress.

A hawthorn in bloom, captured by Bernard, one of Ribble Rivers Trust's volunteers and supporters. Photo: A hawthorn in bloom, captured by Bernard, one of our volunteers and supporters. The white blossom of the flowers makes the tree look like it's covered in snow. In the background we see blue sky and trees. In the shade of the tree there is a ewe with a lamb.

A hawthorn in bloom, captured by Bernard, one of Ribble Rivers Trust’s volunteers and supporters

It’s not completely clear why rivers, trees, woodlands, and wildlife affect us like this, but some reasons are clearer than others, after all who doesn’t love a frosty walk through crisp autumnal leaves, the cool of a river on a hot summer day, or the sight of an unexpected blackbird crossing our path.

Other theories are more complex, with some studies showing that humans benefit from the sensory relief trees offers in built up areas of tarmac and concrete. Forestry England data shows that walking amongst trees may even boost the immune system through breathing in phytoncides, an organic compound emitted by trees that protects them from germs and insects.

Although the science behind this is important, it’s also important to take care of ourselves in these challenging times, give ourselves a break from the ordinary, and look after our wellbeing.

Immerse yourself in nature

Research suggests that just a short time spent enjoying woodlands each week is enough to boost your mood, and you can incorporate nature into your day to day life. Walking, running, and cycling are all great ways to enjoy our rivers, woodlands and forests. Ribble Life Together, our National Lottery Heritage Funded project, has enabled us to create a series of circular walks, many of which incorporate visits to Ribble Rivers Trust’s habitats schemes; why not try one this weekend.

Even simple changes like looking for woodlands or green spaces to exercise your dog, spending your lunch break walking in your local park, or putting time aside to explore the outdoors on the school run can make a difference.

Maybe you could try forest bathing, or shunrin yoku, a Japanese relaxation method which simply involves spending time quietly sitting or standing in woodlands. Turn off your devices, find a quiet spot to stop, and simply relax, breathe deeply, and observe your surroundings.

Our work for woodlands

Photo: Looking up a hill we see trees planted in a green field. On the skyline we see bare branches of trees against the blue sky and white clouds.

Tree planting at Beckfoot, one of our Ribble life Together woodlands

Ribble Rivers Trust have been planting trees for over 20 years, and we have long recognised the benefits of trees and woodlands. From helping to reduce flood risk, to capturing carbon, to creating habitats for insects, fish, birds, and mammals. In the last 20 years we have planted over 150,000 trees, with the majority of these going in the ground in the last few years.

To make sure that these benefits are available to everyone our Lancashire Woodland Connect campaign will be adding to the areas of woodland that you can enjoy. Over the next 10 years we will be planting over half a million trees across Lancashire, making the county a greener, cleaner place for people and wildlife. The tree planting sites will be planned with a particular focus on the communities who may not already have access to green spaces, have lower levels of tree cover, and less opportunities for outdoor recreation.

Supported in part by local councils, we are also hoping to raise a significant sum of money from the public through tree donations, with each tree costing just £15.00.