Branching Out

Reaping the health and wellbeing benefits of woodlands

Published: Wednesday 1 August 2018

Participants of Forestry Commission Scotland's (FCS) Branching Out programme are celebrating after successfully completing the 12-week mental health and wellbeing programme at Crombie Country Park.

The group of 11 attended an award ceremony yesterday (Tuesday 31 July) in the Visitor Centre at Crombie Country Park, where they received certificates acknowledging their achievements. All participants also received the John Muir Discovery Award.

Delivered by ANGUSalive Countryside Adventure rangers with support from Angus Health and Social Care Partnership and the John Muir Trust, Branching Out is an FCS award-winning adult mental health project designed to improve people's confidence, mental wellbeing, and communication skills through a range of outdoor activities.

The programme reached its 10-year anniversary in May and is estimated to have helped over 2,000 people across Scotland.

Nathalie Moriarty, Forestry Commission Scotland's Branching Out programme manager, said: "Branching Out is a hugely successful programme and it's amazing to see the results it has delivered over the last 10 years. It can be life changing for those who take part, they feel more confident and have developed better communication skills to go on and enjoy other local activities which help ensure they continue to move forward on the work they have already achieved."

Adopting a holistic, person-centred approach promoting 'five ways to better mental health', Branching Out takes place in forests, woodlands and other green spaces. Participants take part in a range of activities covering key areas such as bushcraft skills, practical conservation, physical activity, creativity and environmental art, and personal development or learning.

Led by qualified Branching Out leaders, participants benefit from the project's clear routine, structure and non-clinical setting and enjoy three hours of woodland activities a week with each session adapted to meet the needs of each individual group.

ANGUSalive Countryside Adventure Ranger Lisa King at Crombie Country park said: "This is the sixth year we have delivered the Branching Out programme at ANGUSalive's Crombie Country Park and it has been one of the best yet! The group have grown in confidence and it's been really inspiring to share their enthusiasm in a range of activities which this year has included; orienteering, meadow maintenance, willow sculptures and citizen science. Most people have attended every week and we have had great fun. "We look forward to helping support the next group in the Branching Out programme in September."

Originally developed and funded by FCS, the success of the programme has enabled FCS to pass the structured model onto partner organisations and provide an outdoor training and accreditation programme for leaders, which has been endorsed by the Institute for Outdoor Learning and NHS Health Scotland.

Forestry Commission Scotland is now working with 22 partners in 10 NHS board areas delivering up to 50 projects a year.

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