The nationwide launch of Countrymen UK Clubs allows men with health issues to access support services in an environment they understand
Countrymen UK is an exciting new nationwide initiative providing a unique solution designed to support the increasing isolation of men who find themselves unable to access the countryside work and leisure environments because of their deteriorating physical or mental health or changing social conditions.
The countrywide launch of Countrymen Clubs aims to help men become more resilient to the life changes they experience as a result of rural isolation and ageing. The Clubs are particularly keen to recruit men who have long term health conditions including Dementia, Parkinson’s or other limiting long term illnesses, but are open to men of all ages. Typically the men will have an affinity with the outdoors and may have worked in farming or horticulture, but equally may be ex-servicemen or outdoor sportsmen.
The idea behind Countrymen UK, a registered charity, is for all men, regardless of their mobility or cognitive levels, to have the opportunity to participate in healthy, active and social activities in a safe and supported countryside or farm environment to the benefit of their physical and mental wellbeing.
Thanks to funding from the National Lottery, more than a dozen Care Farms and Gardens across the UK have signed up to become Countrymen UK Social Franchises and are aiming to recruit members, together with volunteers, to their newly formed Countrymen UK Clubs.
The Countrymen UK Clubs were developed as a result of an initiative by Future Roots – an organisation which runs programmes in Dorset for both young people and adults. It is part of the ‘care farming’ movement, which aims to harness the therapeutic potential of farming practices.
Future Roots and Countrymen UK founder Julie Plumley explains, “The unique combination of activities taking place outdoors reflects our belief, underpinned by recent research*, that getting back to farm and countryside environments and green spaces, overcomes isolation and has a positive impact on physical health and mental wellbeing.”
The founding Countrymen’s Club is based at Rylands Farm in the Dorset countryside and has been running since 2011 when it became apparent that few opportunities existed for men who loved the outdoors and traditional day-care centres weren’t attractive to them. The Club also helps the wives and carers of the members providing an opportunity for respite as well as the chance to socialise and gain mutual support from one another.
One Countryman, Dan Hodgeson, commented, “I was depressed and isolated. I missed the life I once had in the countryside and had little contact with people outside my family. That’s all changed now. I love being outside again. It brings back memories. It’s become a new adventure for me – a healthy adventure. And I’m surrounded by people who share my interests.”
Rylands Farm in Dorset normally runs four three hour sessions every week throughout the year. Some members attend only one session, while others attend multiple sessions – it’s entirely up to them and a small charge is made for each session.