Green Walking in Mental Health Recovery is a project that aims to promote and improve access to green spaces for adult psychiatric inpatients.

People with severe mental health conditions face impacts on their physical and mental health as well as discrimination. As inpatients, their care may involve involuntary hospitalisations for extended periods, often under circumstances which limit their access to the natural world. Walking groups can be an achievable means for wards and hospitals to provide their inpatients with the benefits of spending time surrounded by nature. 

I just enjoyed being able to walk and talk and not see myself as a patient, doing something that is very normal and peaceful.

Patient South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

Time off the ward to enjoy fresh air and have a leisurely walk helps to clear my head when I am struggling.

Patient Guild Lodge, Lancashire

Walking groups require a relatively small amount of infrastructure and cost. Moreover, they incorporate gentle physical activity into activities which are flexible enough to accommodate a range of choices and care-needs. A walk through a garden or meadow can include elements of photography and other arts, mindful practice, a closer study of nature and of course the company of others. The relative simplicity of walking helps to create a much-needed space where patients and staff can focus on collaborative care models. 

The project is funded by the Network for Social Change and delivered by the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare (CSH) in partnership with the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Project results

Between 2018-20, the Green Walking initiative:

Green Walking in Mental Health Recovery works on many levels. It emphasises the benefits of nature in supporting wellbeing and identifies barriers preventing greater access to green space. It also builds resources and pilot projects/case studies to enable the NHS to integrate green space into standard models of inpatient care and to overcome the challenges to this.

The walks were memorable for the conversations and good company. It was a good time to talk with people with little of the healthcare professional-patient divide.

Edward Lewis, occupational therapist Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust

I noticed a theme of a sense of normality – we appeared a group of friends walking around a park. The service users made comments that hinted at this, e.g. ‘this is the type of thing I usually do which is nice’ and ‘I used to have a dog and enjoyed taking him for walks’

Occupational therapist Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

CSH welcomes any effort in promoting Green Walking for mental health. If you are interested in becoming involved or would like to know more, please get in touch

Register your inpatient Green Walking group

We are setting up a register of Green Walking groups in mental health inpatient settings. To register your walk, please email with the name of your organisation and unit, how often your walks take place and who they are open to.

Green Beacon site case studies, 2019

In 2019, we worked with exceptional teams to establish new walking groups at eight mental health Trusts:

Thank you to Ian Palmeri for help in compiling the Green Beacon case studies.

Green Walking case studies, 2018

Thank you to Mary Nguyen for help in putting together these case studies.

Green Walking guide launch event

The Green Walking guide was launched online on 20 May 2020. Click on the video and links below to watch the launch event and presentations, and to download the full Green Walking guide.

Watch the Green Walking guide launch event, held on 20 May 2020
Other videos from the event

Banner photo: Nick Page, via Unsplash.

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