Recent research and studies have indicated that there is strong evidence to suggest a link to positive mental health and wellbeing to spending time in woodland environments. Initiates such as WIAT – Woods in and around towns are assessing the forestry Commissions programme in Central Scotland. This is a 7 year programme that will chart the effectiveness of such initiatives.
Orchard Centre ServicesROWAN Project‘Respect Our Woodland And Nature’
ROWAN Project• The ROWAN Project aims to encourage its members to enjoy thebenefits of being close to nature and the sense of well being it offers.• A chance to participate in conserving and protecting local woodlandand walkways for the benefit of the wider community.• The project will offer members a chance to participate in health walks,learn about about woodland skills and environmental issues.• The ROWAN Project will cooperate and take advice from local andnational bodies responsible for the respectful management ofScotland’s woodland.• The project will encourage local experts and nature enthusiasts toshare their knowledge with group members.
BackgroundRecent research and studies have suggested thatthere is a strong link to positive mental health andwellbeing to spending time in woodlandenvironments. Initiatives such as WIAT – ‘Woods inand around towns’ are assessing the impact of theForestry Commission (Scotland) programme in theCentral belt over a 7 year period.Many members from the Branching Out group thatran between September - December 2011reported a positive increase in their wellbeingduring this period. This group was part of a jointinitiative between New Caledonian Woodlands,The Orchard Centre and the Forestry CommissionScotland. Members engaged in health walks, bushcraft, conservation and environmental art.11 Members received The John Muir DiscoveryAward on completion of the ‘Branching Out’programme.
Branching Out – ROWAN Inspiration.Branching Out was a joint mental health and well being initiative between New Caledonian Woodlands and the Orchard Centre with supportfrom the Forestry Commission Scotland.The project was run over a 12 week period between September – November 2011, offering woodland activities such as healthwalks, bush craft, conservation and environmental art.Each session took place between 12 noon -3pm each Thursday and was geared up to offer participants a chance to learn newskills and experience different woodland settings each week.10 Orchard Centre members signed up to the project and 1 staff member for the 12 week course.On completion of the course, participants were eligible to receive The John Muir Discovery Award at a specially arranged award ceremony.Participants decided to create an Exhibition to display a gallery of woodland photographs and craft items that they created. This is nowdisplayed within the Orchard Centre.During the first half of the project, participants were involved in formative pruning at the Millennium woodland in Wester Hailes tohelp improve access to local woodland.Shelter building, woodland walks and wildlife photography were experienced at Roslin Glen. At Vogrie Park the group helped to clear invasivespecies that threaten local woodland fauna and collect seeds for propagation.Week 4, involved collecting brambles along local disused railway tracks and making homemade jam and visiting The Garvald Walled gardenproject.At Leadburn, group members learned about tree maintenance to protect young saplings and woodland management skills. Furtherinto the programme, group members learned how to enable newly planted trees to thrive and flourish. Sycamore trees werethinned out to allow stronger ones to develop. The Sycamores that were cut were used to build play structures for young childrenat a local nursery in Gorebridge.A session involving creating willow structures and frames was enjoyed by the group as well as planting seeds that are nowpropagating within the centres greenhouse.All participants were very enthusiastic about the project and developed into a strong supportive unit as the weeks passed by.Most group members have expressed an interest in utilising the woodland skills they have learned in helping to maintain and sustain localwoodland for the benefit of the wider public.Group members also commented on how they positive they felt about their wellbeing and general mental health, especially when theyexperienced spending time in the woodlands.All participants were thrilled to receive their John Muir Discovery Awards in December 2011 at a ceremony held at The OrchardCentre.Phil MorrisSenior Project Worker – Orchard Centre Services.
ROWAN - 2012 Initiatives Members have been encouraged to volunteer and participate in the following initiatives. Rural taster sessions – 4 week courses starting February and May 2012 at Newbattle Abbey College. This is run in connection with The Volunteer Centre Midlothian. Group members will be encouraged to attend future sessions planned later in the year. Partnership with Midlothian Ranger service agreed – JUNE 2012. ROWAN Volunteers 1st venture with local Ranger service held on 17.7.12. From July onwards members have concentrated on clearing stretches of the overgrown former railway footpaths in the Bonnyrigg area. This will enable safer access for walkers and cyclists. The members have already made lots of progress with this initiative. Aug 2012 – ROWAN group have assisted with the development of The Community Hospital garden in Bonnyrigg . Members have helped to construct Raised beds for planting vegetables, Constructed Compost bays and are working to improve the landscaping of the site. Autumn /Winter 2012 – Plans to do conservation work within Roslin Glen . A designated area will be made available for volunteers to plant and conserve (Partnership with Midlothian Ranger Service). It is hoped that Branching Out will be offered to new members in the near future.
ROWAN - Group initiatives Orchard Centre – Raised Bed initiative. (Above) Monday evening group established by Dougi who volunteered his services, time and expertise to help members learn new skills. The photos show the final touches (May 2012) and with Vegetables growing nicely and the rewards ready for meals within the centre. (August 2012).
ROWAN – Partnership working Bonnyrigg Footpath initiative ROWAN members have began work to cut back overgrowth of sections of the old railway pathways that are used by walkers and cyclists in Bonnyrigg. This initiative is to help make the pathways more accessible and safer to use. It is being carried out in partnership with the local Ranger service. Feedback from members of the local community to the Ranger service has been very positive about the impact and improved access of the footpaths since The ROWAN group members worked to make improvements.
ROWAN - Events Spaces Conference Was held in May 2012 at Redhall gardens in Edinburgh. The event was aimed at bringing together people from mental health and environmental organisations – to learn more about how working outdoors in nature can support well being and recovery. 3 ROWAN group members and myself presented a workshop to over 40 people at the event. Members gave an overview of their experiences of the Branching Out Programme .They also spoke about how working with nature and outdoor experiences assisted in their well being and contributed to their positive mental health. Members ran a display stall which offered advice on Health in Minds services and a exhibition of photographs and craft items from their Branching Out experiences.
ROWAN – Dates for Diaries. Initial meeting of group – 7.3.12 at 2.30pm at the Orchard Centre. Feb 2012 – Taster sessions – Rural Skills training at Newbattle commence. Scottish Biodiversity Day –(IBD) -22.5.12 , Week 19/5 -27/5. March 2012 – Hermitage garden project commences. The Role of Green Care in the promoting mental wellbeing 20.3.12 at Heriot-Watt University. Spaces Conference – 24.5.12 – At Redhall Gardens June 2012 - Members meet local Ranger to discuss future opportunities. July 2012 – Conservation event –Bonnyrigg footpaths. August 2012 – Midlothian Community Hospital Garden - open 3 days per week offering opportunities for volunteers to get involved. Open every Monday ,Tuesday and Thursdays from 10am – 3.30pm. Members will be able to go along and volunteer their time individually or within the group. Autumn/ Winter – Conservation work – Locally and Roslin Glen. ROWAN Group meet every Thursday afternoon at The Orchard Centre at 1pm and venture out at 1.30pm.
Meetings ROWAN members will be encouraged to meet together throughout the year to receive updates about ongoing initiatives and discuss news about up and coming woodland/environmental events. Guest speakers will be encouraged to meet with members, ie local Rangers ,woodland and horticultural experts.
ROWAN Members If you would like to find out more about the ROWAN project or become a member: Contact : Phil Morris- Senior Project worker, The Orchard Centre Services Tel 0131 663 1616 Email : email@example.com