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Barnardo's help protect vulnerable children and young people across the UK. The children’s services team build up relationships of trust with children and young people.

Helping people who are isolated feel connected by sharing their experiences of nature. This Guide was developed during the pandemic but could be used as an activity for any group or one off event where people do not meet up physically.

Steps to holding shared nature walks remotely

For this Guide to be useful, you need to have a group of people who:

  • want to spend some time outdoors or know they need to spend more time outdoors

  • want more connections with other people

  • are happy to experiment with the idea of being “alone, but together” - as each person goes on their own but is connected to others through a voice call

Barnardo’s Service Design Team at Plymouth Care Journeys Design Lab led this project. They worked with local care-experienced young people. These young people had been involved in Wild Plym, a local adventures club that teaches survival skills and plans routes together.

The group were keen to stay in touch during lockdown

You need software that:

  • Meets your safeguarding and data protection needs

  • Allows calls that are as long as you plan for your activities to be

  • Fits your budget

You may want software that also allows you to easily share video and short messages during the call

Barnardo’s chose Facebook Messenger as their main software.

They chose it because it was free, young people and workers already knew how it worked, and it allows voice chat, video, images and message sharing.

There’s a more detailed breakdown of Barnardo's decision to use Messenger in their Guide: Teaching young people how to cook using Instagram and Facebook Messenger.

You need to pick an activity that meets the accessibility needs of your participants. You also need to think about what skills they have - what kind of activity will be safe for them.

You could consider:

  • The view from a front porch or a window

  • Sitting under the nearest tree

  • Going to a local park

  • Going on a walk you know well

  • Planning a route and discovering it for the first time

  • Foraging - for example for blackberries

Think about how to combine different options if you have a group with varied needs.

Decide whether the activity will be a one off or a regular session and set a time for it. Let your group know how often you’ll remind them about the activity

Barnardo’s Wild Plym group had been learning route planning skills. They set up weekly sessions. Each young person planned their own 1 hour route through safe public places in advance of the session.

Each week, young people chose a different activity to go with the walk. These covered many things including:

  • Share pictures of flowers

  • Share a nice view

  • Forage for materials to make a plant holder

  • Chat about theme X during the walk

Sometimes they also created video tutorials - for example how to make the plant holder for the foraging activity.

They always sent out a weekly session reminder on Facebook Messenger.

As you prepare on the day, you’ll want to remind participants to be ready.

Check that they know what they are doing, and have everything they need.

Make sure you know which member of the group will start the call as everyone is getting ready to head out.

Barnardo’s found it useful to remind people of the following things

  • Put headphones on if you can - it's annoying to hold the phone to your ear all the time

  • Don’t forget to take water - especially if it’s hot

  • Check you’ve got the right clothes for the weather, and the right shoes for the route you have planned.

If a group know each other very well, the social connection might happen naturally. For most groups you need to plan ways to keep communication flowing. That usually means giving one or two people responsibility for each session.

Barnardo’s paid youth leaders took responsibility throughout the project.

They found the following worked well:

  • Everybody sets off at the same time.

  • Activities start with a check in - asking everyone how they are doing, how they are feeling, how their week has been.

  • Then in turn each person describes where they are

  • Then the leaders introduce the activity for the session - by taking part in it themselves - then letting it flow naturally

  • Towards the end of the walk, leaders ask how the walk has gone, and encourage people to talk about their week ahead. They also collect ideas for future activities to take into planning the next session.

Further information

Running activities online with young people? See more guides

If you're new to safeguarding online, work through the Digisafe Toolkit.

For more about this guide, you can contact any of the project team: