Walk or cycle on reopened road to boost mental health calls made

Walk or cycle on reopened road to boost mental health calls made

Residents of a Somerset coastal town are being encouraged to walk or cycle on a recently reopened road in order to improve their mental health. The B3191 Cleeve Hill, on the western edge of Watchet, closed to all traffic in January 2023 following concerns about coastal erosion, cutting off the town from the neighbouring village of Blue Anchor.

Somerset Council partially reopened the road in time for the Easter long weekend, allowing access for pedestrians, cyclists and those using wheelchairs or mobility scooters. The council is now encouraging both residents and visitors to undertake more exercise as part of a mental health awareness week, which runs from May 13 to 19.

The council's public health team has been working in partnership with the Somerset Activity and Sports Partnership (SASP) to get people talking about their mental health, with the theme of this year's event being 'movement: moving more for our mental health'. Somerset has seen an increase in the number of adults who have been diagnosed with depression, with the number recently rising to 15.4 per cent, or nearly one in seven.

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Research has consistently found that being physically active has a significant, positive impact on mental health and overall well-being. Regular movement has been found to reduce stress, increase energy levels, improve mood, boost self-esteem, and enhance overall brain function.

Cllrr Adam Dance, portfolio holder for public health, equalities and diversity, said: "Many of us struggle to incorporate enough movement into our busy daily lives. This year we want to help you find ‘moments for movement’ in your daily routines.

"Even the smallest acts of movement has huge potential to enhance our mental well-being – if you would like to get moving more, join us in this campaign and see how simple it can be whilst reaping the benefits. The Healthy Somerset website is packed with some great information, resources, and videos to help inspire you and get you moving."

SASP chief executive Jane Knowles said: "You'll never regret finding a moment to move more in ways that suit you, particularly if it's outside where the mental health benefits are amplified. We know the amazing benefits adding movement into each and every day brings, so how are you going to make this week count for you?"

Since the original closure of the B3191, Somerset Council has been looking at different measures to support Watchet's residents and businesses through the Watchet Task Force, which includes representatives from the town council and chamber of trade. The council provided £30,000 towards various improvements to the town centre - including walking and cycling infrastructure, such as the Mineral Line which links the town to Washford.

The B3191 Cleeve Hill in Watchet, looking east
The B3191 Cleeve Hill in Watchet, looking east

The partial reopening of the road enables people holidaying close to Blue Anchor to reach Watchet without driving - including those staying at the Beeches and Warren Bay holiday parks. Those living in the town can now enjoy a lengthy circular walk linking Cleeve Hill and the Mineral Line via a redirected section of the England Coast Path.

Councillor Richard Wilkins, portfolio holder for transport and digital, stated in late-March: "We know the closure of the Cleeve Hill road was extremely difficult for the community in Watchet and has caused a lot of concern. We have been working with the Watchet Task Force to minimise this, and our consultant has been looking whether some kind of access was possible.

"Providing access to walkers, and eventually cyclists is going to be hugely beneficial for Watchet and the nearby holiday parks towards Blue Anchor. We’re delighted this is now happening.

"It means holiday makers and residents affected by the closure can now leave their cars and walk into town in a matter of minutes - it’s great for tourism and for local businesses."

For more on how exercise can improve your mental health, including activities being held across the former West Somerset area, visit www.healthysomerset.co.uk/mental-health-and-wellbeing/mental-health-awareness-week.