Nurturing through nature in our woods
Smithills Estate, Lancashire
With the help of its National Lottery funding, our team at Smithills provide support for marginal and isolated groups in and around Bolton. ‘Walk & Talk’ sessions, organised with the Bolton Council of Mosques and aimed at those with anxiety and agoraphobia, have introduced Smithills Estate to 65 people who lack confidence in the outdoors.
Meanwhile, a series of walks run with Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Trust have provided respite for those caring for loved ones with schizophrenia.
Monthly dementia events have also proved a particular success. As many as 40 people have attended dementia walks, which begin and end with tea and cake, and are designed to suit all abilities.
Fingle Woods, Devon
Dr Lucy Loveday works with our team at Fingle Woods and has piloted a scheme to help troubled young people gain access to green spaces through the NHS, known as the Resilient Young Minds programme. It’s designed to help local people facing addiction issues, homelessness and clinical depression into the woods, and involves everything from fire-building to photography. So far it's been a resounding success, with patients seeing immediate improvement in almost every measure, from confidence and mood to independence and awareness.
The team have run more than 50 sessions for hard-to-reach groups in the region so far, touching the lives of 325 vulnerable people through forest schooling for troubled pupils, guided walks for the disabled and many more invaluable initiatives.
It's now been accepted by the local NHS primary care network, and GPs across North Dartmoor can now refer their patients directly into the woods. Gaining the NHS’s support is a monumental step, since mental health costs the NHS more than £22bn every year in England alone, and the wider knock-on effects cost the economy another £77bn.
While the scheme is currently funded entirely by the Woodland Trust, investing £10,000 of National Lottery funding, it is hoped that green prescriptions will be placed at the heart of UK healthcare with NHS groups funding similar projects nationwide.
Great Chart Wood and Packing Wood, Kent
'Green Gyms' are becoming a regular fixture in green spaces across the UK. Despite the name, these 'gyms' are less about barbells and bench presses and more about keeping woods and other green spaces spick and span.
Woodland Trust woods Great Chart and Packing are often visited by Ashford Green Gym. It was set up in 2008 and it’s the largest self-funded group in a network of almost 50 across the UK, mostly overseen by the conservation volunteering charity TCV.
Groups of volunteers take part in the green gym movement by getting together on a weekly basis to work on keeping woods looking their best, helping out with activities such as coppicing, hedgelaying and trail clearing.
Research has shown a session in a green gym can burn up to a third more calories than an aerobics class, while a study from the University of Westminster has shown those working in green gyms saw their cortisol awakening response - that's the change in cortisol concentration that occurs in the first hour after waking from sleep - boosted by up to 35%.