Restoring abandoned woodland to create an inclusive community space

Tortworth Arboretum received a grant of £2,000 from the Freemasons Grant programme to create an inclusive space for people with mental health issues to learn conservation and wellbeing skills​.

Tortworth Arboretum aims to restore and manage the exotic tree collection at Tortworth, and create a vibrant outdoor learning space available to a broad section of the community.This project is working with various groups of vulnerable or isolated people, including people referred by social prescribing teams.

“The participants are local residents who are struggling with social isolation as a result of COVID, a traumatic life event or learning difficulty. There is a significant gap in opportunities for people living in urban areas to access the countryside for wellbeing due to poor public transport and no community transport options. We offer free minibus pick-ups in Kingswood, Yate and Bradley Stoke, so people without car access can immerse themselves in a historical community arboretum with trees from around the world, something they don’t encounter in their local park. Our referral partners and participants often tell us how important and rare free transport is.”

The experience of those participating in the project is that it has made a profound difference to their wellbeing and confidence. Participants talk about their reduced anxiety and increased confidence from attending sessions. They also talk about it being an important part of their week, the one thing they do just for them, an opportunity to socialise, and the importance of having Tortworth as a safe space.

  • “I really used to struggle with leaving the house and I find it a little easier now”
  • “As soon as I’m here I can sense I feel noticeably better. It’s a brilliant group and I would be lost without it.”
  • “I leave very tired and it’s usually the one night per week I can sleep. The people really help too as it feels like a safe place.”
  • “It gives me a reason to leave the house, meet up with a like minded community of people. I also eat a lot more on a Thurs and always return home with more food.”

 May 2024

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