People with disabilities will have a chance to visit Dorset farms thanks to a grant of more than £100,000.

The Stepping into Nature team, led by the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership (AONB), has had a grant of £101,286 approved by the independent Dorset Farming in Protected Landscapes Programme panel.

The grant will be used to help adults with disabilities explore and understand the farming environment in Dorset.

It will also train and support farmers to safely run farm events, opening up the countryside to a wider range of people. 

The 18-month project, starting in autumn 2023, will see groups of people living with health conditions and additional needs visit Dorset farms

Farmers will be supported to host these visits and will be provided with fully funded training, to ensure the visit is high quality and suited to the groups attending.

Wheelchair users who wish to participate will be matched to farms that are able to cater for their needs.

Pia Lindstrom, Farming in Protected Landscapes Project Support Officer said: "Spending time in nature and taking part in farm-related activities may have the potential to improve mental health and wellbeing.

"Being outdoors can provide a calming environment, away from pressure of everyday life, and can relieve stress and anxiety, giving people space to be themselves."

In a recent survey, people living with a long-term illness or disability said they had not visited a natural space in the previous month.

Steph Aburrow, Stepping into Nature Project Officer said: "This project will also bring partners together to build the foundations of our ambition to create a Nature Buddy Network across Dorset.

"This network will be made up of volunteers who can support people to access nature on a one-to-one basis.

"These people may be living with anxiety, low confidence or are feeling lonely.

"The volunteer can help motivate and support them to go for a walk to the local park, sit in the garden or have a conversation about the wildlife out of the window.

"We are busy working behind the scenes, along with a partnership of organisations in Dorset, to make this offer enjoyable, safe and well-resourced."