You don’t have to put on your running shoes or hop on a bike to feel the wellbeing benefits of being outdoors. Creative pursuits such as singing are also known to positively impact both mental and physical health, and combining this activity with the known benefits of connecting with nature has proven to be a success for the Forestry England social prescribing project at Chopwell Wood.
The benefits of singing in the forest
Lucy, the Active Forests Coordinator at Chopwell Wood near Gateshead, wanted to introduce something into their events programme that didn’t focus on physical activity in the traditional sense.
Knowing that singing causes our bodies to release endorphins, serotonin and dopamine – ‘happy’ chemicals known to boost our moods and help us feel good about ourselves – Lucy approached a choir leader from nearby Chopwell village about the possibility of starting a group.
Alongside improvements to mood, singing can also have positive physical impacts by enhancing lung function, improving memory and helping with pain relief.
Connecting with nature
The Woodland Warblers were formed shortly afterwards and started meeting in May 2023. Beginning with just three members, the group grew steadily to 14 singers by the end of the year when they sang at a Christmas event in the wood.
The group meets each week to sing in Chopwell Wood, either outdoors surrounded by trees or indoors if the weather’s not great. They sing a variety of different, well-known songs, which are often nature-themed to help deepen the connection to their unique singing location.
As part of our social prescribing project, the details of the Woodland Warblers were shared with local link workers, GPs and other care providers to make sure that this opportunity reached those who would benefit most from it.
Making a positive impact
Members of the Woodland Warblers have really noticed the difference that taking part has made to them. Choir member Lesley says:
It’s good to have a regular class to go to because it makes me get up and out. I enjoy the singing very much. The whole thing’s very relaxing and there’s no pressure… I usually have a walk in the woods before the session, which I wouldn’t do otherwise.
The Woodland Warblers are continuing to meet through 2024 and you can find out more about how to take part by visiting the Chopwell Wood's activity page.