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Title: Walking through and being with nature : an examination of meaning-making and human-environment interaction in two walking and solo experiences in UK wild places
Author: Freeman, Elizabeth Louise
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2013
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According to Frumkin (2001), now more than ever before people need to reconnect with nature. Contact with nature is considered by many as crucial to mental health and wellbeing (Kellert & Wilson, 1993) and there are many ways in which these benefits can be accessed. Wilderness therapy is considered as a popular concept in the mental health field in the USA and Australia (Levine, 1994) and there are many different structured programmes that exist (Crisp, 1997), with similar potentials and outcomes. A review of the literature considers the purposes and meaning of terms like wilderness; mental health and wellbeing in the natural environment, particularly in a UK context; the features of structured outdoor programmes; and theories related to contact with nature. The aim of this research is to examine the relationship between humans and their environments, and what might be therapeutic in these relationships. The thesis seeks to explore the best way to work with the features of the natural environment, in order to identify the qualities that contribute to people's experiences. A custom-designed walking and solo experience (WSE), suited to UK conditions, is presented. Two WSE's were run, to explore university students' perceptions of walking through and being with the environment. The first was a five day journey (n=4; 3 females and 1 male) and the second (n=5; 3 females and 2 males) consisted of the same elements and number of days, but took place over two weekends; with a two week interval in-between. Participants' perspectives were gathered from pre- and post-experience interviews, journal writing, group discussions and a nine month follow-up interview. A thematic analytic approach was taken to analyse the data. Both WSEs were considered together in analysis, but comparisons were made so as to evaluate implications for practice. As one of few UK-based studies on experiences of outdoor structured experiences, this research makes a valuable and essential contribution. Considerations of the WSE structure of the two studies are discussed and suggestions are made for alternative approaches to this kind of research. It infers that if time and cost allow, a longer five consecutive day WSE is better, but using weekends may still be effective. A good balance should also be sought between group and solo elements as the latter aspect was reported to be more beneficial for these two groups.
Supervisor: Akhurst, Jacqueline ; Gibson, Stephen ; Potts, Laura Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available