Well-being In Nature at Hakeford Woods Forest School

Here is a report from Hakeford Woods Forest School, who were funded by our Development Fund to run a series of workshops. Thanks go to them for helping us by writing this report and providing the photos.
We started our Well-being in Nature programme after Easter this year and throughout this time it has grown from strength to strength with more people attending – starting with 2 and by the end of July up to 9, our maximum is 12 so three quarters of the way there!

Our participants have self-referred, others have come through groups such as Sanctuary Housing and the local Link Centres. Within this short time a small community has begun to develop with the participants that come regularly. Friendships are beginning to form, skills and experiences are being shared, friends are invited to come along and volunteer, a wider network is beginning to grow.

To set the scene – Upon arrival, the participants arrive at base camp where the kettle is on the fire, a flask of hot water waiting for teas and coffees. As the group gathers, some are quiet and withdrawn, others are chatty and some are ready to go for a walk. Some of the group like to be hands on with site work. They are incredibly helpful as they’ve made a fire surround to keep the toddlers safe, who come to a parent and toddler group on another day. Cleared an area of small trees almost instantly and have planted a willow walk way.

Others enjoy walking and exploring the woods, following deer tracks and trying to catch a glimpse of the elusive fox cubs. We’ve had mini foraging walks and plant identification, everyone sharing their knowledge together.

Lunch is usually a soup cooked on the fire and a time for the group to come to share the meal together. So many times, we’ve sat down for lunch and before you know it time has flown by, the washing up needs doing and it’s time to go home!

We’ve been very fortunate enough to have a participant who is a greenwood worker who offered to run a skill share session on spoon carving – everyone was absolutely delighted with this and the day was happily spent whittling away wood with axes and knives to create a spoon to take home.Our varied activities reflect the dynamics of the group. We always have a small plan of something to do and let the participants lead the way and take ownership with gentle guiding. Regardless of the weather or what is done during the day, by the end of it everyone seems to be on equal ground, more relaxed and comfortable.

For me it’s like ‘magic’ as I facilitate the sessions with Stuart Young we observe how people’s confidence in the woodland surroundings grow and with this so does their connections with others. We’ve been able to create a non-judgemental environment which allows people to share their skills, knowledge and experiences.

With the funding from Recovery Devon not only has it broadened our community it has also enabled us to gather much needed evidence that has helped us to secure further funding.

Thank you