Woodland Wellbeing

Woodland Wellbeing

Reflecting the charity's commitment to the cause, we have piloted and developed effective woodland activities over the last 10 years. We work with adults with learning disabilities, people with mental health needs, those with dementia and their partners and also (under our Trees for Learning programme) young people at risk of exclusion from school.  

Woodland Wellbeing

Get a flavour of our successful Woodland Wellbeing programme 

More information below

Our Woodland Wellbeing programme draws upon 9 years of practice and applies 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 with behavioural needs.

Our activities are 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’.

Recent projects include:

Woodland Wellbeing for people with dementia: our two ongoing groups continued to be popular through the Autumn, with 10 people with dementia and 9 family members attending one or more sessions at Conham and 6 people with dementia and 3 family members at Kings Weston. Highlights included solving leaf jigsaw puzzles, roasting sweet chestnuts on the fire and making bamboo windchimes. We also organised 2 indoor winter craft sessions, where participants took part in a seasonal sensory quiz, made mini twig Christmas trees and shared festive snacks. Thanks to Willsbridge Community Refresh and Blaise Community Garden for allowing us to use their sites.

Forest Fridays: our woodland session for people living with mental health problems have gone from strength to strength, with a total of 14 participants joining the group over the course of the autumn. Exploring the woods and a short guided mindfulness session have become popular elements each week, and making woodland items such as tealight holders and twig pencils were enjoyed by all. Cooking over the fire is always a good way to spend time together and this season we went international, with snacks such as quesadillas and vegetable curry and chai on the menu!

Branching Out – this was a pilot project working with young homeless people, thanks to funding from the Waterloo Foundation and Quartet Community Foundation. We worked with some of the most disadvantaged young people in Bristol, who are homeless for a variety of reasons, including breakdown in family relations, drug or alcohol abuse, mental health difficulties etc. This was one of our most challenging projects so far and we were pleased that, although attendance was low at 7, several young people did come to more than one session and gave positive feedback about the project. 

Recent projects include:

Woodland Management at Splatts Abbey Wood, funded by Redcliffe Homes through the Quartet Foundation

6 week project coppicing hazel and making dead hedges at Splatts Abbey Wood in accordance with the Conservation Management Plan. A total of 11 people with learning difficulties from Bristol Community Links and City of Bristol College attended, learnt practical conservation methods, became skilled at using a range of handtools, enjoyed cooking snacks over the fire and made some woodland items like twig pencils to take home. The Management Committee were extremely pleased with the amount of work done, which should result in more displays of spring flowers and improved habitat for invertebrates, birds and small mammals.

'Woodland Winter Warmer' at Bayes (Brown Rock) Wood, Tickenham

An 8 week project working with 'Off the Record' involving young people aged 16-25 in exploring a new woodland, learning about wildlife and participating in woodland arts and crafts, funded by the Nisbet Charitable Trust. Participants have been experiencing the outdoors in all weathers, including snow! and have really enjoyed seeing the spring gradually arriving in the woodland. Popular activities so far have included making hazel mallets, using natural dyes to colour wool fleece and transforming this into felted sitmats. Huge thanks to Adrian Brooks who has let us use his beautiful woodland for this project and has also allowed the group to feed his pigs and sheep, another highlight for the young people every week.

'Forest Fridays' at Manor Wood, Bishopsworth

6 week coppicing and path clearance project, opening up a very overgrown part of the wood and constructing deadhedges with coppice materials. Participants were referred to the project from Bristol Community Rehabilitation Service, part of Bristol Mental Health. Seven people attended over the course of the project and we understand that at least two are intending to continue working as volunteers, either at Manor Woods or other wildlife projects in Bristol. We are also delighted that one of the participants in our Autumn 2017 'Forest Fridays' project found it so helpful in her recovery that she is now a long term volunteer for the Forest of Avon Trust. 

'Woodland Wellbeing for People with Dementia', Conham & Kings Weston

This project for people with dementia and their carers has gone from strength to strength since the pilot project in Autumn 2016. Starting in March this year, we will now have 2 groups meeting on alternate weeks, one in south Bristol and one in north Bristol, throughout the year. Both groups are extremely popular and we are developing a waiting list. As well as our regular woodland walks and hot drinks around the fire, so far this year we’ve been learning to recognise birdsong, decorated eggs with natural dyes and made wild garlic bread.

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

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