PRESS RELEASE: 21 July 2021
An innovative project around Pendle Hill, 72 Seasons, has improved the wellbeing of hundreds of people who took part, by enhancing their connection to nature.
The project began in March 2019, with 310 people taking part during 2020, volunteering 3,564 hours. The results showed their improved wellbeing led to 579 fewer GP visits in 2020, saving £17,370 to the NHS.
The results showed improved sleep and reduced loneliness, helping participants feel more connected, even during the pandemic; 94% agreed with the statement ‘being connected to nature brings me joy’ after taking part.
The idea was inspired by the Japanese ancient natural calendar. Unlike our traditional four seasons, in ancient Japan they divided the year into 72 micro seasons, each lasting around five days, presenting a poetic journey in which the land awakens and blooms with life and activity before returning to winter.
Pendle’s Kirsty Rose Parker came up with the idea after talking to Cathy Hopley, who is Programme Manager at the Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership Scheme.
Kirsty said: “I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, so was seeking ways to make it manageable. I was talking to Cathy about how walking and nature makes you feel better, but we’d got so busy with life, we’d forgotten to prioritise it. When I heard about the concept of 72 Seasons, I thought maybe I could translate the idea to the Pendle landscape, and break the winter into manageable chunks.”
In Japan, short poetic descriptions describe each season. In March ‘Caterpillars become butterflies’, and in May, ‘Frogs start singing’.
Kirsty said: “There’s quite a lot of inequality in green space. People who live in tree-lined spaces tend to be better off, and people who live in urban tower blocks don’t have the same experiences. I was thinking of all these things and it came together. In the Japanese version, there’s things like ‘Bears came out of their den’, that’s not applicable in the UK. I thought, let’s rewrite 72 Seasons for Pendle Hill, let’s make it our own.”
Kirsty has a degree in economics but also spent over a decade working the arts. As a qualified social return on investment practitioner and director of The Evaluator, which offers project evaluation services, she was well-qualified to lead the project. Kirsty spent a year monitoring the seasons, and undertook research, consulting the Lancashire Wildlife Trust, local GPs, and academics to inform the best ways to engage and encourage connection with nature.
The project engages the five ways to wellbeing identified by the New Economics Foundation, which are to connect, take notice, give back, keep learning and be active.
Kirsty said: “There’s a lot of research into why nature is good for us, and it’s evidenced to reduce blood pressure and improve mood, but I wanted to know how to engage and enhance that connection for people. 72 Seasons ticked all the boxes, and we used art and poetry to strengthen that meaning and connection.”
Kirsty created the words for each season, and local artist Cath Ford illustrated them.
The project was supported by the Forest of Bowland AONB, and the National Lottery Heritage Fund as a part of the Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership (PHLP).
The PHLP is a four-year funded programme of activity which seeks to conserve and enhance the landscape and heritage of the Pendle Hill area, whilst also seeking to re-connect people with Pendle Hill.
Cathy Hopley, Programme Manager at Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership Scheme, said: “The impact of 72 Seasons was very closely monitored and evaluated, and the results are astonishing. We wanted to evidence how we connect to nature and its physical and mental impacts, which makes cost savings to the NHS and wider economy. Connecting with nature is a free and an accessible intervention.”
Initially planned as a face-to-face ‘Year of Adventure’ for local people, the project moved online to be Covid-safe. Participants read 2,730 emails about nature and completed 1,154 surveys about their health, wellbeing and what they had noticed, with the option to join a dedicated 72 Seasons Facebook group.
Kirsty explained: “We revealed three seasons at a time, so it wasn’t overwhelming. The emails we sent included encouraging people to give snowdrops a sniff, stamping on frosty puddles, and listening to birds.”
The project ensured anyone could engage, in their own pace.
One participant, Jackie had been shielding while caring for her husband who has Parkinson’s.
Kirsty said: “Jackie had a traumatic year but has been so positive about how much she enjoyed 72 Seasons, even though she’s only been able to observe nature from her doorstep and small back garden. You can engage with nature in a gentle way, it doesn’t have to be stonking 10-mile hikes up a hill, that’s one thing I’m passionate about. Even before the pandemic, I wanted an online option because I work full-time and have a five-year-old, and two older children. Normally that means you can’t take part in things like this because you can’t go out in the evenings, and you work full-time. So, I had that in the back of my mind, to make sure anyone could have a go.”
The Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership Scheme is now looking at developing 72 Seasons further, to engage more people, in face-to-face sessions, as well as a potential toolkit others can adopt.
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Notes to Editors
• The Pendle Hill landscape partnership is led by the Forest of Bowland AONB.
• The partnership aims to:
I. restore, enhance and conserve the heritage and landscape of Pendle Hill
II. reconnect people with their past and their landscape
III. bring the two sides of the hill together
IV. create a sustainable future for the environment, heritage and for visitors' experience of Pendle Hill
• The scheme was awarded a National Lottery grant of £1.8million by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in January 2018. These funds will be delivered from 2018-2022 and will be matched with a further £1m raised locally.
• The scheme is made up of a dozen projects which safeguard the area's wildlife and heritage and improve people's access to this popular countryside area. We will do this by providing opportunities for training and volunteering; by supporting research and devising creative and digital interpretation to inspire a new generation about our heritage; by restoring important landscape features, and by working with communities to re-tell the stories of radical Pendle people. The scheme will increase pride in this special place and raise aspirations amongst communities, and it will bring in new investment to support the environment and the economy.
• The Pendle Hill landscape partnership is supported by National Lottery players through the Heritage Fund and by the Forest of Bowland AONB. Partners include representatives of parish councils, the landowning and farming community, Pendle and Ribble Valley Borough Councils, Lancashire County Council, statutory bodies, tourism businesses and volunteers.
• Projects will be delivered by the AONB team, plus local delivery partners including In –Situ Arts, the Dry Stone Walling Association, Mid Pennine Arts and Ribble Rivers Trust.
• The Pendle Hill LP covers 120 square kilometres, stretching from Gisburn down to Whalley, and from Clitheroe across to Nelson and Padiham.
• The Hill is well known as a beauty spot and is heavily visited by residents of the local towns: it is a perfect place for walking and cycling. The area's heritage is dominated by the story of the Pendle Witches, but there are lots more stories to tell including the founding of the Quaker movement, non- conformists and radicals, Roman and Bronze Age settlers, medieval farming systems and early industrial developments. The network of dry stone walls and hedgerows give the area a distinctive feel, and the landscape is also important for its wild moorland, rare birds and woodlands.
• For further information contact the LP Scheme Manager email@example.com on 07891 537835 / 01200 420420
• Visit the project website at www.pendlehillproject.com or visit our Facebook page 'Pendle Hill Project' for up to date news and views.
About the National Lottery Heritage Fund
Using money raised by the National Lottery, we Inspire, lead and resource the UK's heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future. www.heritagefund.org.uk
Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund