Walking the Waterways has been an exhibition produced by Nature in Mind, a service provided by Framework that aims to support people with mental health issues, promoting wellbeing and recovery through engagement with nature and heritage-related activities in Nottinghamshire and beyond. Canalside Heritage Centre worked closely with the group to develop an exhibition which focussed on the natural heritage along our waterways and their restorative powers - the physical, mental and emotional benefits of 'Walking the Waterways'.

Nature in Mind joined us in July for a summer photography walk with the Heritage Centre's walk leader, Brian Helliwell. We explained that the content gathered would form part of a small exhibition in our tearoom, as well as discussing the importance of highlighting the natural environment. Brian took the group on a two-hour, picturesque walk along the River Trent and the Beeston and Nottingham Canal, sharing interesting insights into the industrial and natural heritage which could be seen and offering tips on how to frame and compose their photos. The group returned to the Heritage Centre with some fantastic images and started to think about which ones they might want to use for the exhibition.

At the second session we made cyanotypes or 'sun prints'. Cyanotype is a photographic process which produces a cyan-blue print. It was invented by Sir John Hershel in 1842 and used soon after by English botanist, Anna Atkins to document ferns, algae and other plant life. It works by placing natural materials directly onto chemically coated paper and exposing it to sunlight.

The group foraged for natural materials along the waterways and spent some time experimenting with the position of these materials before placing them on to the chemically coated paper. The paper was then exposed to sunlight to create the cyanotype. The final cyanotypes both complemented and added texture to the digital photographs.

Finally, the group took part in a series of activities designed to help them choose that resonated with them most and worked together to decide the final layout. We then spent time reflecting on how walking in nature makes us feel, made suggestions for the exhibition title and voted for the favourite.

We thoroughly enjoyed working with the Nature in Mind group and visitors loved the exhibition in the tearoom. This project is a great example of how engagement with the waterways can have a beneficial effect on wellbeing and builds on our previous work with vulnerable groups in the local community. We are planning many more health and wellbeing activities for the coming year.

If you would like to support our work in helping to improve the health and wellbeing of the most vulnerable groups in the community please consider donating a small amount below. As a small, independent charity every little really does help. Thank you.

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