Monthly Archives: October 2017

Engagement with nature

Nadia von Benzon, a Lecturer in Human Geography at Lancaster University has contributed a blog to the Tree Charter website.  In this, she discusses her research into children’s engagement with nature, particularly the experiences of disabled children, and the use of nature for children’s health and wellbeing.  The post begins:

We are by now familiar with the idea that children’s opportunities for independent exploration of outdoor spaces appear to be in decline.  Numerous studies have illustrated that millennials, and now their children, have fewer opportunities for free play in ‘wild’ spaces than previous generations.  This decline is understood to reflect a variety of socio-cultural and environmental changes such as more competition for children’s time – whether that be from electronic devices, commercialised play opportunities or structured extra-curricular activities, greater perception of risk, and greater difficulty in accessing these ‘wild’ spaces – whether through urbanisation or privatization.

There is some suggestion in the research, that disabled children may have an even more detached relationship with outdoor green space than their non-disabled peers, and this research typically considers the difficulties families may have getting out and about with disabled children.  Specific difficulties may include a lack of disposable income to spend on leisure activities (on average families including disabled children have below average income) and a lack of free time, as much time can be taken attending to the basic needs of feeding, sanitation and medication or therapy for children with complex needs.  These difficulties are often considered insurmountable when the potential destination is unlikely to be equipped with necessary facilities like accessible changing spaces and even surfaces.

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Dementia Wellbeing

Rachel and Sue with their woven willow butterfly and dragonfly; Jeannette decided hers was a long-eared bat!

Through 2017 we have worked with the Bristol Dementia Wellbeing Service to deliver a programme of wellbeing activities for people with dementia and their partners based at Conham River Park and Kingsweston House. This follows on from a successful and evaluated pilot in 2016 (published in the journal Working with Older People).

This is another successful application of the Trust’s ‘woodland wellbeing’ approach which has seen us work with and benefit groups across Avon over the last 7 years.

Executive Director: Jon Clark said:

‘It is particularly pleasing to be working with the Bristol Dementia Wellbeing Service as this represents a commitment by the NHS to funding effective wellbeing activities in the natural (woodland) environment. This successful project owes much to the vision of the  Wellbeing Service (Devon Partnership NHS Trust and the Alzheimer’s Society), as well as the skills of Nicola Ramsden and Rachel Tomlinson, in tailoring activities to need.’

Enabling a wide range of people to benefit from local woodlands is central to the Trust’s ethos and as well as the above, we run activities for adults with learning disabilities; people with mental health needs; and young people with special or behavioural needs. This work is supported by a range of grant funders. To find out more about our woodland wellbeing work, please email:

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A new Forest Education Network teaching resource

The Forest Education Network is producing a Primary Forest & Woodland Teaching Resource pack.  FEN says that if you are looking for lesson ideas and activities you can deliver in a forest or woodland environment, then its resource packs will help inspire you.  FEN says that the pack will be equally useful for those new to using woods and forests as a place for learning and those with more experience who wish to try something new.

The pack aims to help you plan curriculum linked activities from a few minutes long to a one-day visit to the woods. Some ideas will help children to adjust to the new, and perhaps unfamiliar, environment. Others support sustained learning in this natural classroom. Overall, this pack offers a range of activities to enable teachers and pupils share a memorable few hours of learning and fun with the trees as your teachers.  Packs will be available later this autumn, but can be pre-ordered.  Find out more about the pack here.

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