MORE people in Dorset will be able to connect with nature after the county scooped nearly £400,000 to extend a successful project.

The Stepping into Nature health and wellbeing initiative aims to help people be happier and healthier by getting them out and about in the glorious Dorset countryside. It is particularly aimed at older adults, including those living with dementia and their care partners.

A programme of free activities is arranged by Dorset Council's Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AoNB) team working with organisations such as Dorset Wildlife Trust, Dorset Forest School and Dorset History Centre.

Now the Dorset AoNB team have been awarded more than £380,000 to expand the project.

Stepping into Nature was initially a three-year £340,000 National Lottery Community Fund project. The new lottery funding will start this March and will continue for three years.

Dorset AONB Stepping into Nature Project Officer Julie Hammon said: “We are really proud of what the project and our partner organisations and community groups have achieved so far. We look forward to hearing from and helping even more people in the future.”

To date, Stepping into Nature has helped more than 1,000 people find new places to go, learn new skills and meet like-minded people. The current offer includes wellbeing walks among woodlands, reedbeds and coastal settings as well as singing, crafting and history based activities. The activities are dementia friendly, generally low cost and are at an introductory level so no experience, knowledge or skill is required.

Chairman of the Dorset AONB, Jim White said: “Connecting with Dorset’s landscape, wildlife, heritage and culture is really important for everyone. It benefits our physical health and mental wellbeing and provides opportunities for physical activity, social interaction, relaxation and inspiration.”

Cllr Laura Miller, Dorset Council’s Cabinet member for Adult Social Care and Health, added: ‘Stepping Into Nature is a fantastic project that has helped improve the health and lives of many. With this excellent news, the team will be able to reach out to more people, expand the project and really highlight how fabulous accessing the natural world around us can be for our health, both mental and physical."

If you would like help to improve accessibility or engagement with nature near you then please get in touch with the Stepping into Nature team or to find out more about the project and activities available visit