We are proud to help run a full cycle of seasonal woodland activities in partnership with the truly inspiring charity, Mind in Furness.
Our activities provide the opportunity for Mind clients to connect with the outdoor environment, overcome social isolation, learn new skills, build personal resilience and improve mental health and wellbeing.
Following the very successful delivery of this project over 12 months in 2022/3, generously funded by Cumbria Community Foundation, we are delighted to have secured further funding from a number of grant providers. The current 12-month programme runs from April 2023 to March 2024. Clients attend monthly one-day sessions. These offer a full cycle of seasonal woodland activities, providing the chance to connect with nature, better understand its flora and fauna and learn traditional woodland skills.
All sessions are inclusive and accessible to a wide range of Mind Clients experiencing mental health challenges. Many also face problems such as poor physical health, poverty and social isolation.
The participants contribute to the design and structure of the sessions which are all delivered and facilitated by local volunteers, alongside our wonderful experts Mary Fletcher and Duncan Goulder. There is always a choice of activities which could include habitat surveys, mindful guided walks, art projects using natural materials, and greenwood activities The opportunity to learn traditional countryside skills helps the participants build confidence and improve their physical fitness.
We are very grateful for the grant support that enables us to run this project. Funding is provided by the Cumbria Community Foundation, the Countryside Land and Business Association, the Frieda Scott Charitable Trust, the Ulverston CGP Trust Fund and The Walney Extension Community Fund.
We also cannot thank Helen Loxam, trustee of the John Strutt Conservation Foundation, enough for giving this project such an amazing and inspiring base to work from at Hay Bridge Nature Reserve. Our clients have fallen in love with this beautiful reserve and visiting is often the key highlight of their month.
We continue to be impressed by the enthusiasm and commitment of our clients, our wonderful volunteers and not least the constant support and creative ideas from Mary and Duncan in terms of designing the monthly activities.
The level of attendance is excellent with an average of 12 participants several of whom have attended every session run to date. This is a sign of the value the clients attach to the day. Although the weather has sometimes been unkind this has not shaken their commitment to show up.
The activities have been a mix of nature wellbeing sessions and woodcraft activities. Take a look at some of the activities, listed under ‘So far so good…’ to the right.
The clients have enjoyed learning both about the natural world and gaining new practical skills via the traditional greenwood activities. These have included whittling, ash splitting and smoothing the split wood on a shave horse. As part of the project, the team built a rustic cabinet from scratch using the skills they have learned which was both hugely satisfying and confidence building. The cabinet was used on display at the Rusland Valley Show and a number of Mind clients were able to attend and see their work admired. Several of the clients now progress these skills outside the monthly sessions.
At the end of each session, we gather round the fire (which the clients are now able to build and maintain) to share feedback on the day. All the clients confirm that they feel more confident, physically active and have a far better understanding and appreciation for nature conservation.
We will continue to build on these skills at our monthly sessions. As clients move on (some happily back into employment) we bring new participants on board from the Furness peninsula area as identified by Glenn Mahaffy, our inspiring project leader from Mind. Glenn leads a number of monthly ecotherapy activities and was a key driver in the creation of the Mind Garden on a piece of wasteland ground in Barrow. This garden is an interpretation of the 2023 Chelsea gold winning Mind garden created by Andy Strugeon who came to Barrow to support and oversee its development. In 2023 Mind in Furness won the National Mind Excellence Award in the Environment category.