The health and wellbeing ethos of the woodland is based on six ways to wellbeing.
Research evidence shows that where more than one of these is experienced at the same time (or even all six) the benefits are all the greater. The six are:
- Be active – even gentle walking is of benefit, and the terrain of these woods tends to encourage greater expenditure of effort and development of strength and balance on the uneven surfaces.
- Be connected – doing things in the company of others is a great remedy for loneliness, and loneliness is a risk factor for poor mental and health
- Be observant – be mindful – take notice of the environment, be conscious of all five senses, feel the weather and changing seasons
- Be creative – draw, write, take photographs, make things, come up with new ideas and insights
- Keep learning – with other people. Nature is a wonderful classroom – learn the names of trees, birds, flowers – learn about history, geology, arboriculture
- Make a contribution – having something useful to do is a great way to wellbeing – having a reason to get out of bed, knowing you have helped the environment or someone else.
Under “About” you will find profiles for the owners: Peter is a public health doctor with a clinical background in child health, and Michelle is a teacher with specialist experience teaching children with medical needs. We are happy to receive inquiries from schools, medical practitioners and social workers, amongst others, about people they are working with who might benefit from outdoor settings. We are also happy to receive inquiries from parents or carers wishing to boost the wellbeing and resilience of loved ones or restore health after an episode of illness.
Both Peter and Michelle are experienced in liaison with professionals from the caring and teaching professions. We are familiar with evidence-based approaches and in evaluation of outcomes. In general, our approach is non-clinical and informal, promoting the positive ways to wellbeing listed above and letting the clinical, educational and behavioural issues follow from those. We believe in creating an environment and set of activities in which benefits will follow naturally. We do not seek to “cure” but to facilitate healing; we do not seek to “teach” but to encourage a love of learning.
We see the woodland experience as complementary to what doctors, teachers or others are doing (and sometimes the other way around!). It is aligned with the NHS concept of “social prescribing” as an adjunct or alternative to prescribed medication.
To illustrate, we would not be setting up a “diabetes group” or “depression group” or “autism group”, but would have a bird-watching group, an art group, or a tree-planting session that might accommodate people with any of those conditions.
Peter is in contact with a University about the formal evaluation of woodland wellbeing.
A ”mindful” poem on the Fishpond Wood experience
As I walked up through Fishpond Wood
I sensed a new beginning.
I felt the ferns, I stroked the stones,
I heard an oak tree singing.
I tasted warmth, I smelt the sun,
I watched the wind go winging.
And when I listened very hard
I heard the bluebells ringing.