Dementia-friendly Alton is starting a new ground-breaking monthly active wellbeing programme Flourish in the Forest at Forestry England’s Alice Holt Forest on Saturday, March 4, funded by a grant from Haskins Garden Centres.

It is the first of its kind to combine Dementia-friendly Alton’s ‘Flourish’ horticulture therapy with both active and relaxing pursuits set in the natural beauty of the forest.

Sessions will be held on the first Saturday in the month, designed to encompass a range of activities for active people living with dementia, their carers and families in Hampshire and Surrey borders.

Participants can enjoy Alice Holt Forest’s array of outdoor activities including guided walking and cycling on the forest trails, outdoor table tennis, mini badminton, volleyball or choose to take part in gardening activities, arts and crafts in and around the new Activity Centre Studio at Alice Holt Forest. These activities are free for members and carers.

Dementia-friendly Alton ( co-ordinator Karen Murrell said: “There is substantial and growing body of research evidence that being in green spaces, outdoors and in nature has a beneficial effect on overall wellbeing and mood.

“As we have found in our ‘Flourish’ horticulture programme, it plays a significant role in our members’ and carers’ quality of life.”

On the Awareness Day in November, among the wide range of inclusive cycles available at Alice Holt Forest, the side-by-side cycle was a big hit.

An ex-headmaster and marathon runner with walking difficulties said: “It’s been good cycling with someone by your side, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It gives you a feeling you are doing something, not sitting at home.”

A former professional footballer who had recently moved to Alton said: “Cycling was something I hadn’t done for a long time. It was exciting and I would like to do more.”

A carer summed up what it felt like to have a moment of respite by saying: “It’s been a wonderful day for us. The guided forest walk gave us carers a breathing space to reflect on memories that we don’t have time to think about in our everyday lives.”

Jonathan McGloin, recreation manager at Alice Holt Forest, said: “We are delighted to welcome Dementia-friendly Alton to Alice Holt Forest.

“Whether it’s walking, cycling or just enjoying connecting with nature, the forest provides a space to take some time out from daily life and really focus on physical and mental wellbeing.”

For specific details and timings on the new programme and to register for a no-obligation trial, email [email protected]