People with dementia and their carers had the opportunity to try out a range of environmental art, woodcraft and outdoor cooking in the Forest of Avon Trust’s recent Woodland Wellbeing project.
The pilot project, in Conham River Park, arose from a partnership between Bristol Dementia Wellbeing Service and the Forest of Avon Trust and ran for 12 weeks from late summer into the autumn, attracting a total of 17 participants. Underpinned by the 5 Ways to Wellbeing (be active, connect, take notice, keep learning and give back), activities across the sessions included walks along the river and through the woods, environmental arts and crafts, making fires and cooking, chatting over a cup of tea or coffee and learning about wildlife.
Participants were accompanied by a close family member or a support worker and everyone could join in the activities as much or as little as they wanted. People got involved in sawing and drilling wood to make rustic items such as twig pencils, mallets and candle holders; making mosaics and bunting from found leaves and petals; or using natural inks with quills they’d made from feathers to write poems based on what they could see, hear and smell in the woodland environment. For others, it was enough to sit and watch.
Each week a member of the group would light the fire to boil water for hot drinks, and sitting around in a circle trying to guess which way the wind would blow the smoke became a regular focus of the group. We did some foraging while on our walks, collecting sweet chestnuts to roast and blackberries which made a tasty accompaniment to home-made pancakes, while the final session featured more traditional outdoor snacks such as hot dogs and toasted marshmallows.
“There’s a wonder to it”