Tag Archives: well being in woodlands

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 pliot 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

Posted in: Latest News, Our Projects | Tagged , , |

Volunteering with Forest of Avon Trust

Portrait photo of Scott Burnett in the woodsScott Burnett is an art psychotherapist with a particular interest in working with people creatively and therapeutically outdoors in local woodlands. Scott has a written this blog post about his experiences as a volunteer with the Forest of Avon Trust:

“I wanted to volunteer at the Forest of Avon Trust because it’s a great opportunity to participate in the various activities that the charity provides to help build my skills, knowledge and experience of working with groups outdoors.

“I’ve really enjoyed volunteering on the Woodland Works workshops with adults with learning disabilities run by Rachel Tomlinson and Nicola Ramsden. I learned a great deal from Rachel and Nicola about leading workshops like these and enjoyed seeing how much the participants clearly get from activities such as coppicing, dry-hedge building, sawing, fire-making and camp-cooking.

“In a recent workshop we did a pond dip. It was wonderful to see how enthusiastic and focused the participants were to identify pond wildlife. We were all impressed at how big and ‘mean’ the predator dragon-fly larvae looked!

“I was also fortunate to be able to help Jon Attwood when he led a Level 1 Forest School course  and workshops for teachers, play workers and other trainees. Whilst helping out I was able to learn from Jon’s long experience of providing Forest School activities and training.

I’ve already used one activity in my own environmental arts therapy workshops: the group make a circle of wood on the ground and divide it into segments, one for each person. Standing in a segment, each group member faces outwards and walks into the wood to spend time alone reflecting. They also bring back some natural objects that they find, which the group discusses. This activity may seem simple enough, but it offers so much in helping people to immerse themselves in the experience of being in a woodland and sharing this with others in the group.

“I look forward to continuing my association with the Forest of Avon Trust in the future to continue building my knowledge and experience.”

If you are interested in volunteering with the Forest of Avon Trust, please get in touch with Jon Clark at: jonclark@forestofavontrust.org

Posted in: Forest School, Training activities, volunteering | Tagged , , , , |

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

Posted in: Adults with Learning Disabilities, Forest School, Latest News | Tagged , , , , |

John Muir Training Session

The Forest of Avon Trust continues to develop its work as part of Natural Connections Demonstration Project, one of the largest outdoor learning projects in the UK. As ‘hub leader’ for North Somerset, we are excited to be supporting schools to forge links between each other, and with outdoor learning providers, to improve and extend learning in the natural environment.

The John Muir award is a key part of supporting and recognising schools and individuals in developing unique and valuable experience in the natural environment. This award works so well to support the this project as it is flexible to meet the needs of each group and also captures not only learning and development in natural spaces but also supports groups to look after and improve these spaces for people and wildlife.

It is great news that the John Muir award team are going to work with one of our key Beacon schools – Clevedon Secondary School – to run some training on Wednesday 26th March to support schools and professionals in North Somerset and the wider area to develop new opportunities for outdoor activities and explore using the John Muir award to capture this. If you would like to book on this please follow this link.

Posted in: Natural Connections Demonstration Project, Training activities | Tagged |

Why We Still Need a Community Forest

Street and garden trees integrate into woodlands

Street and garden trees integrate with existing woodland, grading to the Cotswold edge. Access links, play areas and open conservation sites extend through this. Farms and woodlands provide food and services for the urban market, with the ‘urban forest’ having the structure to accommodate any permitted development.

I worked for the first Community Forest: the Great North Forest from its beginning in 1990 and have worked in Community Forestry since. I remain strongly of the view that a shared, progressive and long- term strategy for the countryside around England’s largest urban areas is essential. This need not be prescriptive, but should be about a common will to spend time on improving the landscape and functionality of an area, in partnership with landowners, communities and many others.

The Forest of Avon Partnership ended in 2009 having achieved a great deal. Whilst 17 years is long-term in British planning terms, this charity was established to keep the momentum going. It is really heartening to hear Bristol Mayor: George Ferguson, refer to the need for more tree planting (one of our objectives) and cross boundary working.

If you want to help keep the Forest of Avon Community Forest vision and delivery going, email me here with your ideas and/or join us as a Friend (£3/ month).

Jon Clark.

Posted in: Future Woods, Join us as a Friend, Latest News | Tagged , , , |

The Trust has its First Woodland

The Retreat looking north.

The Retreat woodland, looking north

 

The Forest of Avon Trust is now the proud lessee of The Retreat community woodland at Beach, near Upton Cheyney. This 5.18 hectare native woodland was planted in 2000 and provides attractive woodlands walks, with great views extending over Bristol to the Severn Estuary.

Jon Clark, Forest of Avon Trust Executive Director said: ‘Taking on the lease of  The Retreat is a ‘real coming of age’ for the Trust, three years in to its life. We now have a great location for woodland walks, a fantastic site for Forest School training and new location for Tree Dedications. I would really like to thank Veale, Wasbrough, Vizards for their pro bono conveyencing support which helped make this possible.’

The Retreat is on Marshfield Lane, Beach and is clearly marked on Explorer Map 155 a mile east of Upton Cheyney, grid reference ST 710707. Telephone Jon on (0117) 963 3383 for more detailed directions.

The Retreat was formerly managed by the Woodland Trust and planted under their ‘Woods on Your Doorstep’ Lottery funded programme.

Posted in: Business Sponsors, Future Woods, Join us as a Friend, Latest News, Our Projects | 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.

Posted in: Adults with Learning Disabilities, Forest School, Natural Connections | Tagged , |