If it’s your New Year’s Resolution to make 2018 the year of being healthier and feeling better, then Neath Port Talbot is one of the best places to make your lofty ideal a reality.
The county borough is 75% covered in tranquil forests and hills, contains stunning seafront and countryside walks and is criss-crossed by world class cycle paths which vary from relaxing right up to “weekend warrior”.
And if that’s not enough, the Vale of Neath has some of Britain’s most spectacular scenery in its breath taking “Waterfall Country”.
In fact the county borough is a very large outdoor gym in which you can refresh yourself both mentally and physically while at the same time taking in beautiful scenery and bracing fresh air, letting yourself relax and unwind – all for free.
And remember, when you’re at an indoor gym and trying to lose weight, it can sometimes feel like all eyes are on you but when you’re exercising in nature, the local wildlife – squirrels, hawks, deer and the odd sheep to name but a few – don’t care about your struggle.
Exercise is proven to help people working to shift unwanted weight and strengthen mental wellbeing and research shows outdoor exercise, or ecotherapy as it's called, can be effective in lifting mood.
A study of 2,000 active participants in a Scottish Health Survey found outdoor physical activity had a 50% greater effect on mental health than going to the gym. The researchers, from Glasgow University, found that walking, running, biking and other outdoor activities in green space lowered stress.
And researchers from the University of Essex found that as little as five minutes of a ‘green activity’ such as walking or cycling can boost mood and self-esteem.
For walkers wanting the great outdoors Neath Port Talbot has a fantastic offer ranging from the Aberavon Seafront to the towns and valleys of the county borough. For those looking for a theme there are:
• The Richard Burton Walking Trails which visit places the charismatic actor grew up in like his birthplace of Pontrhydyfen high up in the pine-clad hills above Port Talbot, which Burton referred to as “Little Switzerland”.
• Margam Country Park - used extensively as a filming location for the Merlin TV series. The 850-acre estate two miles east of Port Talbot, is steeped in history, wildlife and natural beauty. It features Gothic Margam Castle and the remains of a medieval Chapter House where monks copied out the Domesday Book. The more adventurous can hike along the Coed Morgannwg Way to Afan Forest Park in the Afan Valley.
• A series of nature trails throughout the county borough for you to discover the biodiversity of our great natural environment. Try the Swansea Valley Wildlife Walk, a circular, easy walk, taking in a variety of habitats; the woodland of Coed Cwm Tawe, the River Tawe and the Swansea Canal including the Local Nature Reserve section at Cilmaengwyn.
For many more, take a look at www.npt.gov.uk/exploreNPT for an interactive walking map, cycle routes, wildlife and waterfall walks and much, much more to enjoy our great outdoors.
Like us on https://www.facebook.com/WorkingWithNatureNPT for updates, news and events.