What happened when Prince Harry visited Brockholes Nature Reserve?
- Credit: Paul Heyes
Prince Harry’s tour of Lancashire included meeting young people taking part in an innovative ‘ecotherapy’ scheme. Alan Wright reports
PRINCE Harry received a warm and wild welcome to Lancashire’s youngest nature reserve where he had an opportunity to learn more about a pioneering scheme using nature to help young people coping with mental health issues.
During his visit to Brockholes, near Preston, he spoke to members of a collaborative team running the Myplace project as well as some of the young people who are benefitting from what’s known as ‘ecotherapy’.
Myplace, run in outdoor locations in Preston, Chorley and East Lancashire, is a partnership between Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust and The Lancashire Wildlife Trust, reaching out to young people who may be experiencing a variety of problems.
The Prince spoke to many of the participants in the project as they took part in activities in the ‘Viking Woodland’ at Brockholes. He joined in dead-hedging, bushcraft and mindfulness sessions and also chatted to young people involved in cooking bread and marshmallows over a log fire.
These activities offer young people opportunities to develop new skills and increase their self-esteem, building resilience and self-confidence while also improving environments for local communities. It is funded by the European Social Fund and the National Lottery.
Wildlife Trust chief executive officer Anne Selby said: ‘This visit has put the spotlight on our innovative project with the NHS. Prince Harry is clearly passionate about the subject of mental health and was so natural with the young people.
‘He showed real compassion to the participants who have struggled with mental health issues. He noticed one of the attendees looked overwhelmed, he circled back to reassure her and listened for a moment. ‘He is on a real mission for mental health issues to be de-stigimatised, the biggest prize is for this sort of approach to be normalised and part of the system nationally,’ added Anne.
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‘That’s the challenge. It was really great that senior delegates from the project’s funders, Our Bright Future, Big Lottery Fund and The European Social Fund, were here. It was really good for them to see the practical side of Myplace.’
LWT Health and Skills Project Manager Mike Winstanley said: ‘Our Myplace project works with young people in Lancashire to reconnect them with nature, building confidence while encouraging them to talk about their own mental health without stigma.
‘Some of the young people have been speaking to HRH today about their own journey, describing how Myplace has helped them to recover from their own mental health conditions. I know it meant a lot to the young people to meet the Prince. They were excited to show off the project and the activities they are involved in.’
Sue Moore, chief operating officer at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘Our partnership with the Wildlife Trust is so special because it goes such a long way in de-stigmatising mental health and giving the young people the space and confidence to talk about it with others.
‘We really believe that spending time in the outdoors can make a huge difference and minimise the impact that their mental health could have on their adult lives. HRH has made a huge impression on the young people today and I’m sure they will remember this experience for a very long time.’
During his day in Lancashire, he also visited the Norcross base of Veterans UK, UCLan’s new sports arena and he revisited St Michaels on Wyre to see how the village had recovered from the 2015 floods.