Budding nature watchers with learning disabilities are recording incredible images of New Forest nature thanks to a generous donation.

The donation of £1,000 from New Forest Rotary Club has allowed Minstead Trust to purchase motion cameras that are capturing images of the wildlife that visits its headquarters at Minstead Lodge, near Lyndhurst.

Minstead Trust is a charity which supports more than 200 adults with learning disabilities across Hampshire to live more independent lives.

Thanks to the donation from New Forest Rotary Club, the charity has been able to expand its wellbeing activities to include sessions observing and connecting with nature.

The motion cameras have been fitted in bird boxes and in the main greenhouse where a resident Robin has set up her nest. As well as motion cameras, the donation has enabled Minstead Trust to purchase a power box which means the team have been able to connect all of the cameras to a TV in the classroom so everyone can view the live feed. The wildlife caught on camera so far have included a roe deer, a pair of pheasants and a fox with her cubs

Photos of the local wildlife captured on the motion cameras.

The inspiration for this donation came to a member of the New Forest Rotary Club after attending a Minstead Trust webinar about how the charity is keen to offer more wildlife sessions to support its wellbeing programme.

Steve Timms, President of the New Forest Rotary Club, said: ‘We recognised that these adults were being severely affected, both physically and mentally, by the isolation caused by the restrictions on movement so the idea of bringing live nature to them from Minstead Lodge was really timely. We are pleased to see that Minstead Trust now have their very own version of Springwatch!’

Florrie, a resident at Minstead Lodge who takes part in these nature sessions by regularly checking the footage, said: ‘It’s fun! My favourite is the fox cubs.’

Studies have shown connecting with nature helps mental, physical and emotional health (Mental Health Foundation, 2021), especially throughout the coronavirus pandemic, and this is an activity that Minstead Trust would like to continue to develop.

John Davies, Deputy Head of Day Opportunities at Minstead Trust, said: ‘Thanks to the generous donation from the New Forest Rotary club we were able to purchase some great equipment to enable us to run our nature well-being sessions. All of this would not have been possible without this donation. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it helps with your physical well-being reducing anger, fear and stress, and increasing pleasant feelings.’

The coronavirus lockdown greatly impacted Minstead Trust as a large part of its income comes from its social enterprises which along with so many businesses had to close. The Trust runs Furzey Gardens in Minstead, Hanger Farm Arts Centre in Totton and Minstead Lodge which hosts a range of weddings and events. All of these social enterprises offer work experience for people with learning disabilities.

If you would like to find out more about Minstead Trust or how you can get involved with the charity, please visit www.minsteadtrust.org.uk

Florrie on double nature watch, checking footage on the wildlife camera and keeping an eye on our resident nesting robin and blue tits.

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