FUNDS for 'green prescriptions' are to be made available to promote the use of nature for physical and mental health and wellbeing.

This is a joint venture by the NHS's North East and North Cumbria Intergrated Care  Board and will be administered by the Cumbria Community Foundation.

Voluntary and NHS groups can apply and will use the money for activities such as walking, setting up community gardening groups, talking and exercise therapies and the like.

Priority will be given to groups catering for those with chronic health conditions including cancer, respiratory, and hypertension.

Others being specifially targeted will be refugees, ethnically diverse people, LGBTQ or Gypsy, Romaine, and Traveller (GRT) people.

Successful applications will earn these groups up to £5,000 "to provide nature-based activities, which have been shown to help people improve their health and wellbeing."

Groundwork North East & Cumbia is supporting charitable groups to develop their projects and improve networks and referral pathways with Social Prescribing Connector teams.

Working across north Cumbria, Groundwork will ensure the programme will increase knowledge and awareness of nature-based activities, highlighting some of the new and existing projects, as well as ensuring that those who prescribe into the programme are fully informed of what is on offer.

Craig Drummond, employment programmes manager at Groundwork, said: “This programme is designed to bring those together who socially prescribe with those who deliver nature-based solutions across Cumbria.

"Specifically, underserved populations in north Cumbria that are at risk of experiencing health inequalities, to improve their mental well-being and overall health.

“There is consistent evidence that engagement with nature is beneficial in terms of physical activity and increased mental wellbeing.

"This programme will bring together those who refer in and those who deliver green and blue social prescribing services, as well as identifying current gaps and barriers to access existing provision and taking positive action to overcome those.”

Sarah Thompson, grants and programmes officer, said: “We are fortunate to have access to some world-renowned green and blue spaces in Cumbria and we are delighted to be working in partnership to improve health and wellbeing, mental health and ensure those at risk of experiencing health inequalities have equal access to nature-based therapies and activities.”