2 November 2023

A path to healing: Snowy Valleys walks drive home benefits of reconnecting with nature

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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Gold mill ruins

The Adelong Falls Gold Mill Ruins – one of the eight Snowy Valleys Nature Wellness Drive locations. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

A series of Snowy Valleys walks designed to unlock the health and healing benefits of nature through self-guided experiences and interactive installations is now open.

The Snowy Valleys Nature Wellness Drive consists of eight trails with more than 40 activity stations to unite the communities following the 2019-2020 bushfires.

The locations are Adelong, Talbingo, Tumut, Batlow, Tumbarumba, Pilot Hill Arboretum in the Bago State Forest, Southern Cloud Memorial Lookout and Khancoban, which were chosen in consultation with communities across the Snowy Valleys, and activities have been purposefully designed for each site.

The trails are designed to engage people’s senses in nature, be closer to running water, and listen to the sounds of nature in sunlight.

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The health benefits of the trails include boosting immunity and metabolism, restoring attention, reducing muscle tension and blood pressure, and improving sleep and pain management.

The Wellness Drive was a collaborative project involving multiple agencies and community groups, including bushfire recovery mental health clinicians from the Murrumbidgee Local Health District, in partnership with NatureFix, a nature wellness enterprise.

MLHD bushfire recovery clinician Jennifer Wines said the project provided the community with a sense of purpose during a period of significant loss.

“When we started our roles after the fires, there was universal grief, with no clear way forward,” Ms Wines said.

four people standing in the countryside

NatureFix founder Waminda Parker, bushfire recovery mental health clinician Jacinta Elphick, NSW Health chief psychiatrist Dr Murray Wright and disaster recovery clinician Jennifer Wines launch the Snowy Valleys Nature Wellness Drive at the Adelong Falls Gold Mill Ruins. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

“Homes were affected, livelihoods had been lost. People were struggling with grieving the loss of the natural landscape while, simultaneously, feeling afraid of it and disconnected from nature and from each other.”

When Ms Wines and her colleagues attended a presentation by NatureFix, they learned about physical and mental health advantages that can result from engaging with the natural environment.

Ms Wines and her team took the idea to the community and received an overwhelmingly positive response, and the Snowy Valleys Wellness Trail was born.

NatureFix founder Waminda Parker said the program had created unique experiences and activities to foster people’s connection with nature as a potent means to enhance their health and wellbeing.

“The project amplifies the wellbeing benefits of nature by prompting you to notice and appreciate and have some sensory engagement with nature,” Ms Parker said.

“The activities aim to enable users to engage with nature in ways proven to decrease stress, increase positive mood, increase ability to focus and increase a sense of connection.”

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Visitors can download the NatureFix app via the welcome sign at the beginning of each walk.

“Activities will pop up automatically on the phone screen as the user approaches each station, with the option to listen to instructions using headphones or read the instructions on the phone or the signage installed along the trail,” Ms Parker said.

“These short, self-guided experiences in nature unlock natural health benefits to improve physical and mental health.”

You can learn more about the Snowy Valleys Nature Wellness Drive via the Naturefix website.

Original Article published by Shri Gayathirie Rajen on Region Riverina.

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