Wellbeing in the Woods is a new project developed by ITF that works with young people who have been homeless to engage them in woodland activities to improve their wellbeing and mental health. The project works with young people aged 16 – 24 years who have been homeless and are now living in supported accommodation provided by three organisations in Sheffield: Sheffield Foyer, Roundabout and Cherry Tree Support Services. Twelve woodland sessions are being run throughout 2019 with the aim of improving participants’ confidence and wellbeing and so facilitating their journey towards independent living. During these practical outdoor sessions young people will take part in conservation activities, such as coppicing, and will learn how to use the products of sustainable woodland management to make items such as a walking stick and a stick stool. Other sessions will include bushcraft, photography and woodland art.
Wellbeing In The Woods
We are off to a great start
The first session was led by Sheffield City Council ranger, Nick Blood, teaching young people how to coppice hazel trees. One participant asked “Why would a charity that works to protect trees organise an activity to cut them down?” As Nick explained, coppicing allows us to obtain wood with a variety of uses while actually prolonging the life of the tree. It also promotes biodiversity in the woodland by allowing different plants to grow and providing habitats for a greater variety of wildlife. Nick said that this was one of the best groups he had worked with as participants rose to the challenge of doing something completely different. All of the participants had a great day and reported a significant improvement in their mood at the end of the session.
Other sessions so far have included learning to light a fire with a variety of techniques, cooking ‘damper’ bread over the fire, making charcoal and charcloth and crafting beautiful walking sticks from a pole cut straight from coppiced hazel. Participants are looking forward to the next session in May when they will be taking photographs in an ancient woodland carpeted with bluebells. As well as an improvement in mood, the project is helping participants to connect with other opportunities within the city such as woodturning workshops and a variety of conservation activities run by other organisations.
Sue Pitt, Wellbeing in the Woods Project Manager for ITF said “It is remarkable how young people respond to being taken out of their normal urban environment and into the woods. You can see how they relax and become completely absorbed in simple activites such as lighting a fire. This is mindfulness in action and it is hugely beneficial for young people who are struggling with complex issues.”
The project has been made possible by a grant from The Postcode Local Trust, a grant-giving charity funded entirely by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.
In the press: The Star, Sheffield
Our other Programmes in the UK
Wellbeing In The Woods is one of International Tree Foundation’s three activities in the UK. Our other programmes are:
- The UK Community Tree Planting Programme provides grants for community-based forestry projects to encourage social cohesion, well-being and an appreciation of trees. More information can be found here.
- The Tree Power schools programme combines active outdoor education with learning about the global importance of trees; to encourage young people to become conservation leaders of the future. More information can be found here.