A scheme enabling people to enjoy the benefits of getting outside has been launched in the Forest of Bowland and its urban fringes.

Connecting People & Nature (CPAN) is a three-year collaboration between The Ernest Cook Trust and the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), supported by Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust and a £227,488 grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The project’s focus is on promoting nature, wellbeing and Outdoor Learning. It has three elements: engaging with communities to get people involved; helping schools with Outdoor Learning; and training community leaders in how to plan and run their own outdoor activities.

Emily Crawley, head of Learning Strategy & Delivery at The Ernest Cook Trust, said: “The Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is not just stunning landscapes, it is about the people who live, work and visit the area and those who live nearby.

“This project seeks to enable a wider range of people to benefit from the wellbeing that nature brings.”

The Ernest Cook Trust’s Alison Cross, along with Deborah Woods, from Forest of Bowland AONB working in partnership with Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust, will work together on the project.

Joining them will be an Outdoor Learning trainee, currently being recruited by The Ernest Cook Trust.

Deborah said: “I am delighted to have the opportunity share my passion, knowledge and enthusiasm for the beautiful and dynamic AONB landscape though this exciting new project, utilising my experience of the pathways to nature and wellbeing for the benefits of greater physical health, wellbeing and community connectivity, which in turn fosters a deep sense of place, community and connectivity to the natural world.”

All CPAN activities will be free, with free transport offered, and the scope of the project will reach areas from Preston to Lancaster.

Already, work is underway to get communities outdoors. Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme sessions ran over Easter in Burnley and Pendle, for children who qualify for free school meals.

The Little Saplings outdoor toddler group, which Alison set up as part of the Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership, will continue during the summer, geared towards families who need more support, confidence building and opportunities to get outside.

To involve schoolchildren in CPAN, initially Alison be working with schools in Pendle and Burnley, and following on will be Blackburn, Preston and Lancaster.

Helen Featherstone, Director, England, North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “We are thrilled to be supporting this project that will build on the important work of the Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership Scheme to safeguard our natural heritage.

"Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, local people will have the chance to learn, explore and connect with the wonderful nature and wildlife that is on their doorsteps.”