Benefits for us all in the great outdoors

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The spring days are getting longer and it’s a good season to be spending more time outdoors in and around our lovely city. Enjoying some fresh air can have many benefits on our health and wellbeing.

Connecting Ripon member Open Country is a local Harrogate-based disability charity which runs a number of outdoor activities in Ripon helping disabled people to get out and enjoy the countryside. This helps to improve fitness and wellbeing and reduces social isolation.

Chief Officer, David Shaftoe said: “Contact with nature, be it listening to birdsong, watching butterflies or getting stuck in getting your hands dirty with conservation work, has so many benefits for the people we work with, some who may usually spend little time in the great outdoors.”

Nature and Natterers mental health group meets weekly to take part in activities such as conservation work at places like Fountains Abbey and High Batts Nature Reserve. People attend the group as part of their mental health recovery programme.

The Ripon Tandem Club enables people with learning disabilities and visual impairments, who are not able to ride a solo bicycle, to get out into the countryside, get some fresh air and experience the freedom and exhilaration that riding a bike brings. Back seat riders need to contribute to the pedalling of the bike in order to keep it going.

The Conservation Group works on many nature reserves in the Ripon area including Quarry Moor, Hell Wath and Sharow churchyard, as well as having productive links with Connecting Ripon members Ripon Walled Garden and Jennyruth Workshop.

David said: “Members of the group have a learning disability or mental health issue and learn skills that improve confidence, help them to look after their local environment and contribute to the community, including how to use a variety of hand tools and how to manage different habitats for wildlife. Last year for example they planted over 1,500 trees - a magnificent contribution.”

All Open Country projects are supported by a wonderful team of volunteers who are the backbone of the charity. If you would like to get involved, the team would love to hear from you on 01423 507227 or email

Members and volunteers at another local charity,

Ripon Walled Garden, have been busy planting seeds and plug plants preparing for the bedding plant and hanging basket season, which is just around the corner. The fruit trees in the orchard are beginning to wake up from their winter sleep and blossom, and the orchard meadow offers a Spring welcome to visitors.

Julie Spink, Business and Development Manager, said: “The benefits of gardening and horticulture are endless both physically and for mental wellbeing. Our members, volunteers and staff report gardening reduces the feeling of social isolation, encourages team work, a sense of pride and community. While gardening can be physically demanding, the joys of sitting with a cuppa admiring our handiwork or harvesting vegetables and delivering a trug full to our plot to plate Tea Room is especially rewarding.”

Ripon Walled Garden is open Monday to Saturday 10am–4pm with the Tea Room open until 3pm. Why not call in, relax and soak up the atmosphere in the Victorian kitchen garden and support this fantastic local charity on Palace Road.

Our next Connecting Ripon Network meeting is on May 9 and new members are always welcome. Find out more at