In Funding Stories, Reducing isolation & disadvantage

Project: Accompanied Walks

BP Collins Stewardship Fund: £1,000

Chiltern Open Air Museum is an award winning ‘living’ history museum at the forefront of preserving the heritage of the Chilterns. Their mission is to rescue and preserve historic buildings from around the Chilterns area, providing a place for all to learn, enjoy and take pride in their local heritage.

Beginning in 2020 as a pilot programme offering support to older (aged 65+) visitors, thanks to funding from Heart of Bucks the Accompanied Walks programme is now offered to a more diverse range of ages and needs. This sees the walks offered to people aged between 11 – 96 years, people experiencing loneliness and isolation, those with learning difficulties, limited mobility, autism, and people suffering from Parkinson’s and Motor Neuron Disease. The Accompanied Walks (or ride in a golf-buggy) are designed to deliver not only a safe and accessible experience to those who may need extra help or assistance to enjoy the museum, but also to bring the health and wellbeing benefits associated with being outdoors in a rural setting. Participants are accompanied by a knowledgeable and friendly volunteer to learn about the heritage buildings and enjoy the gardens. The walks are then finished with refreshments and a chat on the ‘village green’. This allows the visitors to learn from and enjoy the museum in a way that suits their needs, and also offers the chance of respite for parents and carers.

Along with individuals, couples and small groups of friends, the museum now has the ability to host larger groups and so far has hosted groups including students from SEN schools, members of a local Dementia Café, and care home residents. They have also been able to forge closer ties with the Epilepsy Society’s Chalfont Centre, welcoming several of its residents on the accompanied walks.

Whilst the primary aim of Accompanied Walks is to support the health and wellbeing of people people in the wider community, the museum have identified further benefits from the programme, such as an increase in their group bookings and growth in their volunteer numbers. The success of the Accompanied Walks programme at COAM has also resulted in the project being used as a case study for a Buckinghamshire-wide training and mentoring project to support other cultural organisations to set up pilot Social Prescription programmes.

Quotes from beneficiaries

“I hadn’t been out for a long time so it was a big step & I was nervous but I needn’t have been as everyone was lovely. As a result, a few days later, I had the confidence to go for a local walk.”  – Accompanied Walker

“We have had several invitations to COAM accompanied walk, and am always eager to go.
This provides a couple of hours respite and relaxation.” – Carer

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