Nature Prescriptions one year on

One year on from the launch of RSPB Nature Prescriptions in England, Sarah Walker, Nature and Wellbeing Manager, takes a personal look back on the impacts of nature on our lives and some of the highlights for the project over the last year.

*this blog contains mention of terminal illness

 Friday 30th December 2022 is a day that remains so clear in my mind. My closest friend was staying for the New Year weekend and we’d been out walking.  She lives near the Peak District in Derbyshire and we chatted about the RSPB Nature Prescriptions project launching in just a few days’ time there. It would be the first in England.  Our walk was wonderful, not because of the weather which wasn’t at all wonderful, but because we took time to really notice nature, to absorb the sights, sounds and smells of nature, to feel wonder and love for our natural world.   

Sadly, the date sticks in my mind as it was also the day I received the devastating news of my sister in law’s cancer diagnosis. The news came out of the blue and the shock was immense. 

January 2023 rolled round and brought a month of mixed emotions – enormous personal sadness, but also hope and excitement for the launch of RSPB Nature Prescriptions, which I knew could help so many people to deal with the challenges life can throw at us.  Following on from the successes of RSPB colleagues in Scotland (Click here for the full report) I couldn’t wait to see the impact Nature Prescriptions could have here in England.   

Many of us have an instinct that nature does us good but we don’t always embrace that and don’t always know how best to do that.  We might think we have to spend hours walking in woods or running marathons to improve our wellbeing, and as amazing as that can be, it simply isn’t possible for many people, and it isn’t necessary. RSPB Nature Prescriptions are designed to help us to improve our wellbeing through a stronger connection to nature and are delivered through a guided conversation between a healthcare professional and their patient or client, along with a calendar of seasonal ideas to bring nature into their lives in small, simple, everyday ways. 

“Growing up in inner-city Bradford to me, foxes, badgers and hedgehogs seemed to live in a faraway land. Now as a GP, I know the importance of spending time in nature for our health and wellbeing. Health isn’t just about taking medication. I talk about the health benefits of nature with my patients when I feel it will help them. I’m passionate about the proven health benefits of being out in nature and would like everyone to be able to experience it, whether you live in an inner city or the countryside. Immersing myself in nature is my way to clear my head. It can be comforting to realise that nature is going about its business without worrying about the things we’re worrying about.” Dr Amir Khan GP – NHS Doctor, RSPB President, author and broadcaster

What’s happened? 

Since our first project in the High Peak of Derbyshire launched on 4th January 2023 we’ve extended into the Derbyshire Dales and launched new RSPB Nature Prescriptions projects in four new counties across England, working with a range of different partners and patients to bring nature connection to the heart of health and wellbeing.  

Here are just some of the highlights over the last year…  

Working with stroke survivors 

In Barnsley, we have worked with social prescribing link workers, specialist therapists and nurses, and the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust to bring Nature Prescriptions to people who have had a stroke, and their carers as part of a community stroke service trial.  We co-designed the Nature Prescriptions materials with stroke survivors, carers and healthcare professionals to ensure they were meaningful and relevant for local people.  This included creating a new layout and design for the Nature Prescriptions calendar to help people who have aphasia, often presented as difficulty with speech or understanding written or spoken language after a stroke, to access the calendar.  

 Supporting dementia groups  

RSPB Nature Prescriptions are designed for people to follow the suggestions on their own, at a time that suits them.  However, we also know using Nature Prescriptions can work really well as part of group activities.  A lovely example came from the Derbyshire Dales where social prescribing link workers, who connect people to community-based support, have been offering Nature Prescriptions as part of their dementia support groups. The ‘Forget-me-Nots’ who head out regularly to the local park to spend time with friends and family have been doing some of the suggestions from the Nature Prescriptions calendar to feel the benefits of nature for their mood and wellbeing.

“It really brought it home that nature is so timeless and was still relevant to everyone, both those with dementia and their friends and families.” Derbyshire Dales social prescribing link worker 

Helping people receiving mental health rehabilitation   

In a pilot study in Hertfordshire, Nature Prescriptions are being used by occupational therapists to support their clients at two in-patient rehabilitation units. Clients living in the units and a carer made invaluable contributions to the creation of our Nature Prescriptions resources for use locally. The Nature Prescription is being used alongside a wide range of interventions and support, with the aim of using personal and meaningful interaction with nature as a way to improve wellbeing and quality of life. 

“Gardening, growing, allotments and nature are very therapeutic, they keep your mind on good things and it feels like you have achieved something.” Client at one of the mental health rehabilitation units 

Nature at Work 

We’re also trialling how RSPB Nature Prescriptions could be used in the workplace to boost wellbeing. Working with NHS staff in Suffolk and North East Essex, we are sharing monthly tips and ideas for connecting with nature, as well as a staff tip to bring nature into the working day. ‘Nature Champions’, a small group of volunteer staff, also actively promote the value of nature for health and wellbeing and organise nature-based ‘lunch and learn’ sessions for colleagues to join. The Nature Champions have arranged team litter picks, introduced moments for noticing nature at the start of meetings, created office-based nature book libraries and seed swaps, and bee friendly plant growing competitions! 

Working from home, I often only get to see four walls. Looking out the window allows me to see the outside world, watch the birds enjoying a bird bath or visiting the bird feeder for a little snack just helps me to recharge before I go back to the screen and the deluge of emails.” NHS Nature Champion 

Greening a hospital site 

My sister-in-law made regular visits to hospital for chemotherapy and had a stay of over two months in the autumn, and throughout that time all she saw was the grey walls of the building opposite. Even on occasions when she was able to go outside, the site was devoid of nature.  How much better her experience would have been if she had been able to see trees, plants and insects and listen to birdsong!  One of our wonderful volunteers, Jane Taylor, worked with a team from the Royal Devon at Okehampton hospital to improve the biodiversity of the grounds, creating a welcoming environment for staff, patients, and visitors while supporting nature. Bringing nature to people wherever they are is so important and we plan to do more of this in the future.

Nature walks 

Volunteers in several RSPB Local Groups now lead Nature Walks for Wellbeing. These short walks are led in urban areas and are designed to introduce people to nature as well as to meet with new people and friends.

“I have been on a few of these since I heard about them back in April and I think these walks are a brilliant idea; it got me out of the flat and it was also really good to spend time with other people.  I enjoyed the talks as we would walk around which made looking at wildlife and plants in these parks very interesting. It has definitely lifted my wellbeing.”  Participant in Central London Walk 

What’s next? 

Making time for nature has been more important than ever this past year for me personally. I’ve made a point of it every day, often only for a moment or two, but it has given me strength at difficult times. On the day of my sister-in-law’s funeral, it was a cold and crisp early December day. I took a short walk, looked up to the sky and saw a majestic Red Kite flying high.  Even on the saddest of days, nature provides us with hope and joy. 

Nature should be a big part of our lives and an important part of health and social care delivery. So, our plans for expansion of RSPB Nature Prescriptions continue to accelerate and we’re more determined than ever to help as many people as possible across England to feel the benefits of nature. 

Alongside the projects above, we’ve got a pipeline of work which will be launching early in 2024 starting in January, including projects in the National Parks in North Yorkshire and Exmoor.    

A year ago today I finished my blog by saying “…I hope that this is just the start, and that we can spread the use of RSPB Nature Prescriptions throughout England…” -  I think we might be well on our way to doing that!

To find out more about nature prescriptions visit or if you’re interested in setting up a new Nature Prescriptions project contact us at:

Image credits: Ben Andrews (; Sarah Walker; Forget-me-not dementia group; Okehampton Times