A GROUP with a passion for the environment is helping to boost mental health during the coronavirus crisis.

Friends of Coves Community Nature Reserve was constituted last March but volunteers been involved in taking care of the site since 2017.

Marie Stonehouse, chair, says people’s love for conservation and the great outdoors brought them together.

But she believes that the group has never been more important than it is now, as its crucial conservation work gets people out and about during the pandemic and meeting others in the fresh air.

Marie said: “Socialising is an integral part of what we do.

“This can help people suffering from loneliness, isolation and mental and physical health issues.

"Just submerging yourself in nature has healing effects, but combining it with physical and social activities can really make a difference in wellbeing."

The group's founding members were previously involved in a green gyms initiative and when it came to an end local councillor Natasha Murphy, along with Inverclyde Council and Laura Reilly of Belville Community Gardens, helped to form Coves Reservoir group, which oversees the Friends of Coves.

Marie said: “We meet weekly for land maintenance and hold monthly litter picks and tree planting events."

They have recently been working on the James Watt Wander woodland trail and will be busy bulb-planting in January.

Marie said: “We are always looking for volunteers and we are linking up with Enable Scotland and hoping to work with other organisations such as SAMH and Mind Mosaic.”

The activist told the Tele that the reserve's location near some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in Scotland means it can play a key role helping people in the community - and also secure the site's future.

She said: “Nature can give these areas something to be positive about and to inspire them.

"We hope that eventually the community will take ownership of this beauty spot."