Tens of thousands of Brent geese that come here every winter can’t be wrong! Since the days of St. Patrick humans have settled in the lough area to benefit from the produce of its calm waters and the fertile, drumlin landscape which surrounds it. Monastic communities, Vikings and Anglo-Normans all came from afar and stayed.
Nowadays visitors enjoy the scenic drive or cycle along the lough shores and the short ferry trip across the narrow entrance from the Irish sea. Just a memory of the place soothes your soul. A stone’s throw from Belfast, Strangford Lough is a unique, natural treasure trove. It is one of the most richly bio-diverse regions in Europe and one of only three designated Marine Nature Reserves in the United Kingdom.
The coast has long been used as an environment for convalescence, holidays and physical activity, Locals and travellers alike may walk or cycle on the shores or take to the calm waters by canoe or boat to experience the “restorativeness” of this wonderful environment.
As an area of outstanding natural beauty, it is the perfect site for what is now being dubbed “Blue Health”. Walk, canoe, cycle, or simply sit and meditate on the scenic panorama. The freshness of the coastal air will cleanse your lungs and the colour of both sea and sky will instil calm in your being.
A growing number of quantitative studies have investigated the potential benefits of outdoor blue spaces (lakes, rivers, sea, etc) and human health. Evidence suggests a positive association between greater exposure to outdoor blue spaces and both benefits to mental health and well-being and levels of physical activity.
BlueHealth is currently the subject of a pan-European research initiative which brings together experts from nine institutions to investigate the links between environment, climate and health. Being near water appeals to our five senses – the sound of waves lapping, bird calls or even silence, the smells in the air of seaweed, wildflowers on the shore and fresh air, sights of shades of green and blue known to be most calming to the human brain, the feel of cool water to hand or foot, and the taste of salt on the tongue or fresh seafood in the mouth.
In Japan, the positive qualities of the colour blue have been harnessed to combat the epidemic of suicides in Japan. Railways stations, where suicide rates are high, and also areas of high crime rates, have been bathed in blue light with incredible results. Crime rates have dropped while suicide attempts ceased altogether. Depressed people, use shades of grey to describe their moods rather than “the Blues” and blue is always the most popular colour on the colour wheel.
It is with all his in mind, that a new initiative will be set up in Portaferry in 2019. Based on a successful model which has run in Devon for more than a decade, a not-for-profit, community enterprise will harness the healing powers of water-based activities for the benefit of sufferers of poor mental health.
Wellbeing in a Rural Environment (WREn) will help them to improve their mental health and wellbeing with the help of a historic Dutch sailing barge. This barge itself is a survivor of life’s ups and downs and is the perfect floating sanctuary. Therapy will be moved from indoors to outdoors, and from land to sea. Mother Nature knows best and with her help, through the healing powers of Strangford Lough, miracles can happen.
For more information on WREn contact the author or visit the Facebook page via this link