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South West Region

From social prescribing to bicycles…

When waking up in the morning the last thing you’d think you’d be doing that day would be to ride a penny farthing, but that is what happened to NWR member, Barbara.

On 18 October 2023 NWR members from across the South West and NWR staff member Cath Heslop gathered for a social event organised by Moira Coats. They were treated to two speakers, quizzes, homemade cakes and there was plenty of time to chat amongst themselves.

The first speaker was Caroline. A former nurse, she had taken on the role of social prescriber six weeks ago and spoke openly and movingly about her role and her belief in the importance of organisations like NWR who bring people together. In 2024 all doctors surgeries of a given size will be required to employ a social prescriber. Doctors refer their patients to her and she helps them with, for example, claiming benefits, housing and dealing with loneliness or isolation. They do not support patients who are suffering with severe depression.

As a social prescriber it is important that Caroline was aware of all social organisations in her area and would be well placed to direct people to NWR groups. Cath spoke of having a social prescriber attend a Biggleswade NWR group meeting and how it had led to a new member joining the group following a post the social prescriber had sent about the group on her Wellbeing Facebook page.

Moira set a challenge to members: to contact your local doctors surgery and invite their social prescriber to their next meeting.

We then met our second speaker. Mel, with his trusty penny farthing, had cycled around the country raising money for the NHS. He explained how the origins of the bicycle could be traced back to a volcano in 1816. This volcanic erruption had changed the environment, making summer hotter and winter colder and causing crops to fail. People became desperate and killed their horses for food, this meant that they needed an alternative form of transport – and the idea of the bicycle was born.

Mel demonstrated how to get on the penny farthing – explaining how it involved running and jumping. How did he get off? Well, the same as how he got on, but in reverse. It was very simple to ride, but that also made it scary to ride, there were no brakes. We asked what was it like riding in traffic – Mel said that he actually felt quite safe as cars gave him a very wide berth!

NWR member Barbara stepped up to the challenge when Mel asked if anyone would like a go. We think Barbara did very well!