Press Release

London’s first Natural Health Service launches in Croydon, using nature to reduce demand on NHS

  • Using nature to support individual wellbeing and the development of resilient and healthy communities
  • Relieving pressure on the NHS – addressing both preventative and reactive healthcare and social pressures
  • GPs able to offer social prescriptions

The Natural Health Service launches in Croydon this autumn to encourage residents to use nature to improve their wellbeing. The new initiative, the first in London, will provide and promote activity in the natural environment to support residents’ emotional, physical and social health, and by working with GPs, support the NHS in dealing with health and wellbeing.

As one of London’s greenest boroughs, Croydon has a fantastic opportunity to use its natural capital to support health.  If residents increase their exercise uptake through the Natural Health Service it will support Croydon in decreasing the amount of money it is spending on inactivity, currently £5.7million per annum.

Through a consortium of national and local not-for-profit organisations, participants will be able to access a wide programme of nature-based activities including gardening, conservation, bushcraft, nature-based counselling, ecotherapy, volunteering, walks, running, cycling, nutrition and cookery.

Craig Lister, Managing Director of TCV’s Green Gym said: The Natural Health Service in Croydon is a great collaboration of organisations with a shared vision to improve the health and wellbeing of people and communities.”

Ed Field, Partnership Manager at Good Gym said: “The Natural Health Service will allow people from all backgrounds and areas to come together to get fit, support local organisations and make connections they never thought they would.”

The Natural Health Service cultivates the practice of using nature to support health, by encouraging meaningful engagement with nature as part of our self-care, helping us to make cities liveable places, rather than survivable spaces.

Beth Collier, Director of Wild in the City and Chair of the Natural Health Service Consortium, said:

“90% of the UK population live in cities – with fast paced, busy lives we can become disconnected from the natural world and the quality of our relationships can suffer. Research shows that grey and fast paced urban settings can be detrimental to health. It’s estimated that as many as 30% of weekly GP appointments are not related to medical, but social issues. Gathering in the natural world to get fit, learn new skills, explore, make friends, play and relax, helps to counter modern endemics of isolation, loneliness and inactivity.”

Spending time in nature reduces anxiety, depression, stress, lowering blood pressure and improving memory, concentration and meditative feelings. And it doesn’t take long to benefit:

  • 30 minutes a week in nature reduces depression and high blood pressure
  • A 90 minute walk in nature reduces rumination
  • Walking can reduce both heart disease and diabetes by 50% and colon cancer by 30%
  • An hour of bird watching burns 175
  • An hour of conservation work clearing land and hauling branches burns 280 calories

The Natural Health Service aims to create a lasting relationship between individuals and nature as a means of supporting health through their lifetime. It’s estimated that if everyone had access to nature we would save the NHS 2.1billion in healthcare costs. Getting into nature costs nothing, but in London especially, the positive impact on individual health is huge.


Notes for Editors:

The Natural Health Service will launch in Croydon on Saturday 9th September, 1-4pm, in South Norwood Country Park, followed by a month long pilot programme funded by Croydon Council.

It is currently available to everyone over 16 years, further activities will be added for children and young people in the coming months.

We place an emphasis on preventative health careYou don’t need to be unwell to benefit from a fit and healthy lifestyle.  The Natural Health Service helps people maintain good health, as well as tackle ill health.  You can also be referred by your GP through a social prescription.

Croydon’s Natural Health Service will be London’s first, it is being launched by a consortium of non-profit organisations led by Wild in the City, including Good Gym, Good Food Matters, The Conservation Volunteers, Wheels for Wellbeing.  In our second phase the Natural Health Service aims to promote and provide activities throughout London.

Wild in the City supports wellbeing through connection to nature in London’s wild spaces, offering bushcraft, traditional skills and ecotherapy to people living or working in the capital, helping to make time in nature an everyday experience.

The Conservation Volunteers Green Gyms help improve people’s health and wellbeing whilst creating green spaces for communities to enjoy. These fun, free, outdoor sessions take place across the UK

The Good Gym are a community of runners that combine getting fit with doing good. They stop off on their runs to do physical tasks for community organisations and make social visits to support isolated older people.

Good Food Matters runs a Community Food Learning Centre in New Addington, Croydon, providing training in growing and cooking sustainably produced food, connecting people to the food they eat and how it is produced.

Wheels for Wellbeing supports disabled people of all ages and abilities to enjoy the benefits of cycling, They aim to increase the number of disabled people in the UK who cycle for everyday journeys and to make cycle routes inclusive and accessible.

To find out what’s on and how to get involved visit or contact us at