Woodland Wellbeing

Woodland Wellbeing

Our Health and Wellbeing Team have piloted and developed woodland activities over the last 10 years, which directly benefit participants' health & wellbeing, build nature-connection and support people who may experience barriers to accessing woodland. We work primarily with people with dementia & those who support them, people with mental health needs, and people with learning disabilities. We also run one-off team days to support staff wellbeing and student enrichments days for young people.

Why Support Woodland Wellbeing?

Watch Occupational Therapist Nicky Noble talk about the benefits of our work.

Our Woodland Wellbeing programme applies the principles of Forest School and the NHS' Five Ways to Wellbeing' (Be Active, Notice, Connect, Keep learning, Give back). Each group reflects the needs, aspirations and interests of those involved. Where possible sessions take place in publicly accessible sites so that we can meet people where they are and where they will go again independently.

Our activities are delivered by Health & Wellbeing Officers along with skilled associates and volunteers.

Our Woodland Wellbeing projects are directly commissioned by health and social care services or funded via grants, donations and business sponsorship. Demand is growing, so with your help we can do even more.

Woodland Wellbeing for people with dementia and those who support them:

Bristol dementia groups

Our Bristol dementia wellbeing project was first piloted in autumn 2016 and has progressively grown since then. Our regular groups take place in Conham River Park, and Kings Weston Estate. Our sessions focus on supporting both the person with dementia and the person who supports them, whether that’s a partner, friend, family member or other carer. Feedback shows that people benefit from sensory stimulation and pleasure, peer support and social contact, and learning about and from the natural world. We meet fortnightly in small groups. We go with the flow of what interests participants, from short walks to foraging and cooking on the fire, trying art or crafts or simply listening to the birds and enjoying a cuppa. Bristol groups are commissioned by and run in partnership with Bristol Dementia Wellbeing Service.

South Glos dementia group

We also run a group for people with dementia and their carers in Brinsham Park, Yate. This was funded via the Green Social Prescribing Fund with support from Adorno Companions.

People with mental health needs:

Our weekly Forest Friday project has been running since 2017, although we have undertaken similar work since 2015. The group is commissioned by and participants are referred via Bristol Community Rehabilitation Service, part of Bristol Mental Health. Over the colder, winter months we focus on practical volunteering, weaving in other elements that encourage self-care and wellbeing. During the summer activities reflect the changing seasons and the interests of participants and may include: foraging and cooking, wildlife surveys, arts and crafts, exploring mindfulness and grounding. Participants are supported to attend by Community Rehabilitation Service Navigators and OTs.

People with learning disabilities:

Evidence suggests that if you have a learning disability you are more likely to experience poor mental and physical health. We have been facilitating woodland wellbeing groups with people with learning disabilities since 2011. Projects have been funded on a year-by-year basis and tend to focus on a particular geographic area or people who use a particular service. We often work in partnership with other organisations and have worked alongside Choices4U, City of Bristol College, Bristol Community Links, Milestone Trust and Cintre amongst others.

Activities depend on the seasons, interests and needs of participants. They have included conservation volunteering and projects which focus on skills for work; sensory exploration, stimulation and enjoyment; environmental arts and crafts amongst other things. All sessions contain elements that support nature connection and self-care and aim to increase confidence in spending time in and with nature.

To find out more about our Woodland Wellbeing projects, subscribe to the newsletter via the link below or if you’d like to discuss supporting a new project, please email Rachel, our Health and Wellbeing Officer: rachel.tomlinson@forestofavontrust.org

Woodland Wednesdays

Watch a video produced by charity Cintre.