Opinion: One of our team of practitioner columnists gives her take on the benefits of parks and the countryside

All women turn into their mothers, so they say. This is
something my 21-year-old daughter seems reluctant to accept,
despite the fact that she chose the same degree subject as me, and
now works for the same employer. I tell her it’s a slippery

I think about this with my own mother, who now has dementia, like
her mother before her.

She’s had to go through some fairly awful experiences with doctors.
The first psychiatrist she saw grilled her for over an hour, until
she was in tears. He didn’t even have the courtesy to direct his
questions to her, finding it easier to go through me, rather than
to speak clearly and directly to her to compensate for her hearing

On the second visit there was a different doctor. The copious (and
very personal) notes from the first visit were lost. The doctor had
all the social skills of a fence post. He just looked down and
mumbled into his papers (presumably the wrong papers).

We made a quick exit, and in 20 minutes we were in some of the most
beautiful countryside in Britain. How do you value a walk in the
countryside in terms of mental and physical health? On this
occasion far more than an inconclusive and traumatic visit to a

Don’t get me wrong, I do value our health services, but if you
really want to feel better, and if you are able to, you can’t beat
a good shot of fresh air and exercise in a green environment.

The Peak District GP who “prescribes” country walks has it right in
my book. So do the numerous Walking for Health groups springing up
in parks across the country. I extend this philosophy to my work.
Sometimes I get stuck trying to find out what people want to do
with their time. I find if I can get them out somewhere green, in
the countryside, park or garden, people relax and feel better. It’s
a great place to communicate and make decisions, and a worthwhile
end in itself.

So now I find that the woman I am turning into is the one who gave
me a love of these things, and a belief in them. It’s always been
there as a backdrop to the other things I try to emulate (not
always successfully): being a good mother and daughter, fighting
injustice, doing a fulfilling job. Every important conversation was
always on a walk or with a green view. It is something we can still

Jennifer Harvey is a day services co-ordinator working with
people with learning difficulties


More from Community Care

Comments are closed.