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Applying our Forest School expertise to deliver effective activities for people with mental health needs, people living with dementia and people with learning disabilities.

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: jonclark@forestofavontrust.org

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Young People Getting to Know Local Woodlands

We are working with 10 secondary schools across the area and taking  young people with a range of physical and learning needs to visit a local woodland to learn about the woodland environment and acquire new skills. Funded by the Ernest Cook Trust activities have included improving paths for visitors, trying woodland crafts and perhaps best of all, toasting marshmallows.

This work (thanks to the Ernest Cook Trust) is part of our wider suite of ‘Woodland Wellbeing’ projects which are bringing the considerable benefits of woodland activities to a growing range of people in the Bristol area. To find out more about what we do, please email Nicola Ramsden at: wellbeing@forestofavontrust.org

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Professor Alice Roberts

Trust Patron: Professor Alice Roberts talks about the importance of woodlands, the Forest of Avon Trust and a major new research project launched this week:

I’m passionate about the importance of woodlands – and that importance ranges from the global and economic to the deeply personal and psychological. Forests form a critical component of global ecosystems – and are crucially important for humanity. They support a huge range of life – home to half of all known species; they play crucial roles in carbon and water cycles; they provide us with building materials and fuel; and as we walk through them, they fill us with a sense of calm and wellbeing.

 It’s hard to believe it, but the UK has the lowest woodland cover of any European country. After millennia of deforestation – which started thousands of years ago, in the Neolithic, as farmers cleared woodland to make way for crops and livestock – there’s now a pressing to re-forest. Visions of a sustainable UK include much larger areas of managed woodland. The mission of the Forest of Avon Trust includes protecting trees and woodland, planting more, and helping people to enjoy these wonderful natural spaces.

The University of Birmingham is committed to forest research, which will inform how we sustain and nurture our woodlands as the climate changes. We’ve just launched a multi-million pound open-air experiment aimed at understanding how woodlands will respond to rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere this century. You can read more about the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research here. ’

Find out more about the Forest of Avon Trust’s wide- ranging work in Bristol & Avon here and follow us on Twitter to keep up to date on the latest tree & woodland news.

Posted in: Business Sponsors, Forest of Avon, Future Woods, Latest News, Our Projects, Outdoor Learning, Professor Alice Roberts, Safeguarding our Trees, Woodland Management, Woodland Wellbeing | Tagged , , , , , |

Dementia Wellbeing Pilot Project

“If my son could see me now, he wouldn’t believe it”

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”

More »

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Woodland Wellbeing Dementia Project

The Forest of Avon Trust’s Woodland Wellbeing Dementia Project is an example of a fundamental part of the ethos of the charity at work.

This has been to both apply and develop best practice in the delivery of the benefits of the being in the natural environment.

In this work, the Trust applies the principles of Forest School to deliver successful projects tailored to the needs of diverse groups tackling isolation, developing confidence and more widely improving quality of life.  Currently we are proud to be delivering a project working with people with dementia and their partners and carers.

Woodland activities in sessions have included:

• walking
• listening to bird song
• making kazoos
• making quills to write down thoughts
• making mallets
• using various flowers & berries to make hapa zome bunting

To find out more about our work, or to discuss a new project, email: jonclark@forestofavontrust.org

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Woodland Wellbeing Projects

Central to our ethos has been to demonstrate the value of activities in the natural environment to people’s health and wellbeing. We have run a number of evaluated projects to apply (and develop) best practice in this field.

Our Woodland Wellbeing programme draws upon this practice, applying the principles of Forest School to deliver outdoor activity programmes tailored to the needs of groups including: adults with learning disabilities; people with mental health needs; people living with dementia; and young people at risk of exclusion.

Our work is delivered by Health & Wellbeing Officer: Nicola Ramsden, working with skilled Associate Rachel Tomlinson and/or trained volunteers. We can offer 6, 8, 12 & 16 week programmes and ‘taster days’.

To find out more about our Woodland Wellbeing projects and/or to discuss a new project, please email Nicola at: wellbeing@forestofavontrust.org

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Woodlands for mental wellbeing

This summer we’ve been running a series of woodland sessions aimed at people with low to mid-level mental health needs based in the community. We wanted to encourage people to get outside, spend some relaxing time in nature, meet other people and try new things.

We hoped that people would find out if being in nature could help them develop coping strategies for daily life.

This pilot project was run in association with Public Health: Bristol and Lawrence Weston Community Farm. Participants were told about the sessions by their GP and could attend free of charge.

Activities ranged from making elderflower cordial to whittling, learning about wildlife and trying out simple survival skills. Participants came up with ideas of what they wanted to do, and session leaders helped them to follow their interests by providing expertise and support.

Feedback at the end of the pilot was very positive. One participant said, “I no longer stare at the ground when walking about, instead I’ve learned from being here to look around at all the colours, remember tree names and maybe collect fallen leaves”.

They went on to say, “my family and boyfriend have noticed a big improvement in my depression and are always asking what I have done when I come home.”

We hope to expand the Forest of Avon Trust’s nature-based health and wellbeing projects in 2016, based on the interests and needs of different groups. Do get in touch if you are interested in working with us: jonclark@forestofavontrust.org

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Woodland Works

Collecting tree guards

Two groups of adults with learning difficulties have been visiting The Retreat over the last year to learn new skills and help us manage the woodland.

Last week people from Choices4U helped clear dozens of tree guards and create a small area of hazel coppice. Participants from The Milestone Trust’s Stepping Forward group have also been hard at work in the woods, creating a dead hedge and pond dipping amongst other things.

The Woodland Works project was funded by South Gloucestershire Learning Difficulties Development Board and The Baily Thomas Charitable Trust and has been running since last summer. Participants have learned about fire lighting, shelter building, safe use of tools and wildlife identification (in all kinds of weather!)

A support worker from Milestone Trust said: “The retreat experience gave the service users valuable outdoor experiences. Learning about safety outdoors and using tools and fire. They learned to work together as a team and did independent projects. Outdoor confidence grew as they learned to make things from nature… All ask to go back to experience more.”

Using hand made bows and arrows

It hasn’t all been hard work though! The groups have also had fun making bows and arrows, building shelters, making music and creating woodland art. The Retreat also provides a therapeutic environment to spend time sitting quietly, listening and watching, a chance to feel connected to nature.

If you are interested in finding out more about Woodland Works, please contact: jonattwood@forestofavontrust.org

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Showcasing our Work

The Trust celebrated its third ‘birthday’ in December by taking on the lease of The Retreat and by filming three videos at the site, illustrating our work.  Trust patron and One Show regular Mike Dilger took time out of his busy schedule to help us with this, working with local media production company Constellation Media.

We were supported in the films by Forest School trainees; children and staff from Bradley Stoke Community School; and representatives from some of the organisations, businesses and Councils we have worked with.

Jon Clark, Trust Executive Director, said:

‘It was a cold and windy day, so huge thanks to everyone who took part. It was really heartening to hear everyone’s commitment to the cause. I am really pleased with three short films, which I hope speak for themselves.’

A mention has also got to go to Manor Farm Shop for an excellent warming lunch.

The videos are below: (also available on our YouTube Channel)

Tree Charity: the Forest of Avon Trust

Click here to play the video

 Tree Action in and Around Bristol

Forest School Leader Training

Click here to play the video

 

Posted in: Business Sponsors, Community Partners, Latest News, Mike Dilger, Our Projects, Outdoor Learning, Training activities, Videos, Volunteering, Woodland Management, Woodland Wellbeing | Tagged , , , , |

Exploring the benefits of the Forest School approach

Person wearing a willow crown decorated with leaves

Activities at Ashton Court

The Forest of Avon Trust has been using the Forest School approach with a number of groups of adults with learning disabilities over the last few years. Getting groups out in to local woodlands to explore and undertake a range of activities that has brought them in to close contact with nature has been fun and beneficial. Through talking to those involved we have picked up on some common themes that demonstrate how individuals and groups can benefit from this small group based experience in a natural setting over a period of time. The following link explores this in more detail – Outdoor Activities with Adults with Learning Disabilities.

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