In February ITF launched a new project based in Sheffield called ‘Wellbeing in the Woods’. The project works with young people aged 16 – 24 years who have been homeless and are now living in supported accommodation. It aims to improve their confidence and wellbeing by engaging them in practical woodland activities. ITF is working with 3 organisations in Sheffield that support these young people on their journey towards independent living: Sheffield Foyer, Roundabout and Cherry Tree Support Services. The project has been made possible by a grant from The Postcode Local Trust, which is funded by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.
The first session was held on the 10th of February at the Shire Brook Valley Nature Reserve in Sheffield. The participants were taught how to coppice hazel trees Nick Blood from the Sheffield City Council Rangers service. Despite their initial reservations, feedback was really positive. One participant said “It was something different, I enjoyed it and had fun. It changed my mood from bad to good.” Wellbeing in the Woods Project Manager, Sue Pitt said “After just one session it is clear how much impact this project is likely to have on the lives of young people. It was fantastic to see how they overcame their initial doubts and got so involved in the important job of caring for woodland. They were rightly proud of what they had achieved and it was wonderful to see such an improvement in their mood and their confidence at the end of the session.”
Session 2 took place on the 17th of March at Newfield Spring Wood. In this session the group built a fire using wood they had collected and then made a simple bread dough to cook over their fire. One participant from this session told us “I enjoyed being outdoors and learning how to start a fire, it was challenging, but after the activity I felt good. I would love to do it again.”
10 more sessions are planned for 2019, including the next one in April, which will involve participants making use of the products from coppicing and making walking sticks from hazel poles. Another future session will include shelter building and survival skills at Greno Woods with Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust. By taking part in these activities, young people will benefit from an improvement in their own wellbeing but will also develop a deeper understanding of the value of woodland and how it can be managed sustainably. ITF is grateful to players of People’s Postcode Lottery, whose funding enabled the project to happen.