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Green Actions

Cheshire’s Natural Health Service

Using the county’s green space assets to help tackle local health inequalities

A group of people walk along a woodland path

Cheshire’s Natural Health Service uses the county’s green space assets to help tackle recognised local health inequalities. This initiative builds on the growing body of evidence that activities in the nature can have a significant impact on keeping people healthy.

Cheshire’s Natural Health Service (NaHS), is funded by Cheshire West & Chester Council, managed by the Mersey Forest, and results to date have shown significant increases both in participants’ physical and mental wellbeing. Since 2017, nearly 3,000 participants take part in one of the largest community led evidenced-based programmes to date contributing to influential UK policy.

For targeted areas of health inequality, identified through the borough’s JSNA, Cheshire’s NaHS provides five different evidence-based activities, from group walking to mindfulness, horticultural therapy to healthy conservation and bushcraft, all taking place in green environments. The activities are provided in up to twelve-week blocks, with tailored sessions targeted at adults and children, or those with particular needs or health conditions.

Working in conjunction with Liverpool John Moores University the activities are academically evaluated. A simple baseline wellbeing and physical activity questionnaire is completed at the start, and followed up 12 weeks later. Results to date show that wellbeing has increased by 13.7%, and for physical activity: walking, moderate and vigorous activity levels have increased by 83%, 50% and 18% respectively.

Some of the most powerful messages are from the individuals who have taken part:

“I've now completed the Mindful Movement course at Marbury Park and it's been great to take an hour each week to clear my mind of any problems or worries and to slow myself down. It's given me the chance to really notice the birds singing and the sun shining through the trees…and has inspired me to want to try other things. After the sessions, I've started jogging along the Run England routes that are marked out around the woodland. I'll hopefully be taking part in the Northwich Festival of Running in the summer!”

Learning has included reaching audiences by working closely with partners who are embedded within their local community, and have well developed links with harder-to-reach communities. A co-production approach has been developed with partners, holding regular events, promoting skills, and sharing ideas and activity programmes. A proactive approach has been taken understanding the characteristics of hard-to-reach communities and possible barriers to their engagement, building ways to overcome these in all aspects of our programme development and delivery.

The long term aspiration is to have Cheshire’s NaHS available and utilised by every one of Cheshire West’s communities, throughout the year. Moving forward there are opportunities to link even more closely with other organisations, to provide a strategic approach that is even more joined up. This will provide better routes to social prescribing, greater engagement with our GPs and Clinical Commissioning Groups - ultimately improve the quality of life for all of residents. Cheshire’s Natural Health Service is proving to be a great leap forward towards achieving that ambition.

Find out more at

A group of walkers entering a woodland

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