Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Walk in the Woods Could Be GP's Tonic

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Walk in the Woods Could Be GP's Tonic

Article excerpt

Byline: By Tony Henderson

Patients who visit their doctor could soon come away with a prescription for a walk in the woods.

The scheme is being piloted in the North-East and is being based initially around Chopwell Wood in Gateshead.

A project health worker is being appointed to work with doctors to run the scheme, which is being backed by the Forestry Commission, Gateshead Primary Health Trust and the Friends of Chopwell Wood.

"We are trying to realise the health benefits of woodlands in areas such as exercise and relieving stress," said Rothbury-based Forestry Commission conservator Brendan Callaghan.

Ideas include calorie-counting woodland trails, various forest activities and guided walks.

"This may be helpful for people who do not tend to visit woods," says Brendan.

The scheme is part of a first draft forest strategy for the region which has been launched by the Government Office for the North-East.

The aim is to explore ways in which woods and trees can make the region a better place in which to live and work.

Some of the targets include:

* Creating at least 500 acres of woods on brownfield sites in the next four years.

* Ensuring trees and green spaces are included in new business and housing developments.

* Expanding the use of wood as renewable energy fuel and forestry-based tourism.

* Planting 1,250 acres of new woodland each year.

* Restoring into good condition 95pc of the region's woodlands which are of national importance for wildlife.

The region has around 250,000 acres of woodland, covering 12pc of the land area. But Kielder Forest accounts for about half that figure.

This means the 6pc figure is less than the 8.4pc national woodland cover area and is well short of the average 30pc rating for Europe.

"Our figure isn't great. …

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