"I WAS a bit nervous the first time. I didn't know what to expect. But now I feel so relaxed here. It is good to be out of doors with other people and helping to get the land back for future generations."

Ian, a retired farmer with dementia, sums up what being part of an Alzheimer’s Support farm group has meant for him. “Being here on the farm has made me feel more confident and I have made good friends.”

Alzheimer’s Support knows the value of nature, landscape and wildlife for people affected by dementia. The charity is working with partners and funders to provide more opportunities for people to spend time together in The Great Outdoors.

One imminent project is a partnership with Wiltshire Equine Assisted Learning which has won funding from the National Lottery to run weekly sessions for people with dementia at its centre at Stagwood Stables in Holt.

The Muddy Boots groups will give people the chance to interact with ponies, alpacas, dogs and guinea pigs, to take part in gardening projects, farm walks and nature-themed crafts, and began on Tuesday.

Alzheimer’s Support is also linking up with social enterprise Forager’s Farm in a project to help transform a community garden near Salisbury. The first is due to meet in May , with funding from the Wiltshire Community Foundation. More groups are planned, subject to funding, in the Warminster and North Wiltshire areas.

The charity’s outdoor clubs grew out of a partnership with Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, which included a fortnightly wildlife club at Lower Moor Farm nature reserve near Cricklade and a highly successful pilot project at Blakehill Farm near Swindon. Both were funded by the Trust through its Wildlife Connections programme.

Sarah Marriott, Head of Community Services at Alzheimer’s Support, said: “Being out and about in nature and interacting with animals are incredibly beneficial to people living with dementia.

"People can become isolated and lose touch with skills, but many are still very active and able to work with tools. These groups gave people the chance to be out of doors, get involved in practical tasks and enjoying nature in a social and supportive environment.”

Carer Carilyn Telford, who attended with her husband John, wrote to Sarah saying: "I could not let another day go by without saying thank you to the people who organised the group.

“Being in such good company definitely enhanced our lives after being isolated and scared. Doing something together as a couple was wonderful at Blakehill Farm. It’s opened up a whole new chapter in our lives. I truly pray this event may continue because it gives so much practical help and brings smiles to our faces.”

To find out more about the groups, or to donate to help keep them open, go to www.alzheimerswiltshire.org.uk