Mausoleum of Sir Richard Burton in Sheen
Guest blog by Colin Cooper, CEO, Habitats & Heritage.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a big impact on people’s mental wellbeing. The mental health charity Mind[i] found that more than half of adults and over two thirds of young people said their mental health had declined during the lockdown in April and May.
However, one of the few positives of the pandemic is that many of us have been spending more time outdoors and discovering the natural environment in our local areas. Research[ii] last year highlighted just how good this can be for our mental and physical health, suggesting that a two-hour “dose” of nature a week significantly boosts health and wellbeing, even if we simply sit and enjoy the peace.
Lockdown has meant that many of us are now working from home, but this has helped to renew our appreciation of nature and wildlife and its benefits for our wellbeing.
As the bright colours of autumn come through and we head into winter, employers could encourage their staff to take a break from work and venture out during their lunch hours and explore the borough’s green spaces and wonderful parks, stroll along the river bank.
Walking is one of the best ways for people to start their local adventure as it can be a mood booster. The Walking for Health network[iii] says it improves self-perception and self-esteem, mood and sleep quality, and it reduces stress, anxiety and fatigue.
In south and west London, we are so fortunate to have historical heritage gems right on the doorstep, from grand Tudor Palaces and handsome Victorian high streets, through to WW1 munitions factories and WWII air raid shelters. And, according to Historic England’s Heritage Counts research, visiting heritage sites in person or virtually can also improve our wellbeing and even ease some of the challenges associated with Dementia and Alzheimer’s.
As the CEO of a new charity Habitats & Heritage, I’m extremely passionate about encouraging people and businesses to connect with nature and local heritage. Our charity is dedicated to looking after the natural and historic environment in south and west London and we want people to really enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits this affords.
Our mission is to protect and restore our threatened local rivers, green spaces and parks and historic built environment for this and future generations. Our main theme this year is ‘explore’ as we mark the bicentenary of Victorian explorer, Sir Richard Burton, whose spectacular mausoleum is in Mortlake.
Sir Richard Burton was an extraordinary man who led an expedition to find the source of the River Nile and mastered over twenty languages, from Marathi to Arabic. We are hosting a programme of events and encouraging everyone to become an explorer in their own areas.
When lockdown is lifted, we will be offering many opportunities for businesses of all sizes to get their staff involved with local conservation and heritage projects, from creating new green hubs to developing wildlife corridors and volunteering to work on river projects or restoring iconic local buildings.
About Habitats & Heritage Trust
Our charity is the result of the merger of Environment Trust and South West London Environment Network (SWLEN) and it makes us the leading environmental and heritage charity in the area. We are based in Twickenham and work across the London Boroughs of Richmond; Hounslow; Kingston; Wandsworth; Ealing; and Merton.
Habitats & Heritage is inviting the business communities of south and west London to get in touch! We want everybody, whether they live, work or play in these areas to be part of shaping local conversation work and strengthening the communities within them. Local businesses are invited to join a steering group and work together to create meaningful engagement opportunities for your teams.
Habitats & Heritage has experience of working with many different businesses and community groups to build lasting and mutually beneficial relationships and can offer your teams diverse ways to support each other and their communities.
If you’d like to be part of this exciting new way to make a difference, please email us
People can also become supporters of the charity for just £10 a year by signing up to the Supporter Scheme. As a supporter, they will become further engaged in projects and be able to find meaningful opportunities tailored to their interests.
For more information about Habitats & Heritage, including how to become a volunteer and get involved with local projects visit our website
About the author
After 16 years in the charity sector, Colin Cooper has a wealth of experience in strategy development, managing partnerships, organisational development, governance and achieving lasting impact. Colin has a Master’s Degree in Charity Management. Before transitioning into the environmental charity sector, Colin held management positions in a number of retail and hospitality companies.
Photo credits: Alexa Bailey