Breaking barriers: connecting people with disabilities to the countryside

The Stepping into Nature team, led by the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership (AONB), has had a grant of £101,286 approved by the independent Dorset Farming in Protected Landscapes Programme panel.

Magdalen Farm - conservation grazing with pigs (c) Rachel Janes

The grant will be used to help adults with disabilities explore and understand the farming environment in Dorset. It will also train and support farmers to safely run farm events, opening up the countryside to a wider range of people. This is a key aspiration of the Dorset AONB.

The 18 month project, starting in Autumn 2023, will see Stepping into Nature facilitate visits to farms in the Dorset AONB for existing community groups of people living with health conditions and additional needs. Farmers will be supported to host these visits and will be provided with fully funded training, through the widely recognised CEVAS course, to ensure the visit is high quality and suited to the groups attending. Further to this, farmers will receive additional one-to-one support to ensure they are ready to begin welcoming people onto their working farms.

New accessible trailer with Jake and Chrissy Hancock at Middlebere Farm funded through another Farming in Protected Landscapes Programme Project

Pia Lindstrom, Farming in Protected Landscapes Project Support Officer said

Spending time in nature and taking part in farm-related activities may have the potential to improve mental health and wellbeing. Being outdoors can provide a calming environment, away from pressure of everyday life, and can relieve stress and anxiety, giving people space to be themselves.’ 

In a recent survey, people living with a long-term illness or disability said they had not visited a natural space in the previous month. When we know how good nature is for our mood and health then everyone should have the opportunities to access nature. This has far reaching benefits too as Natural England estimated that £2.1 billion per year could be saved in health costs if everyone in England had good access to greenspace due to increased physical activity in those spaces. In times when budgets are stretched more than ever, providing these opportunities to those that need it most is crucial.

Steph Aburrow, Stepping into Nature Project Officer said,

‘This project will also bring partners together to build the foundations of our ambition to create a Nature Buddy Network across Dorset. This network will be made up of volunteers who can support people to access nature on a one-to-one basis. These people may be living with anxiety, low confidence or are feeling lonely. The volunteer can help motivate and support them to go for a walk to the local park, sit in the garden or have a conversation about the wildlife out of the window. We are busy working behind the scenes, along with a partnership of organisations in Dorset, to make this offer enjoyable, safe and well resourced.’

Find out more about Stepping into Nature and the developments of their projects on or email .

If you a farmer in the Dorset AONB and are interested in the training, then view more guidance here.

Red Devon (c) Tony Gill Dorset AONB