The Good from Woods research project explored how people are benefiting, personally and socially, from woodland activities in southwest England. Initiatives that deliver woodland activities recorded how participants feel about their experiences in order to build an evidence base.
Explore the projects below to find out how these woodland activities affected the health and wellbeing of the people involved.
Forest of Avon Trust – City of Bristol College – Forest ‘School’ for young people
Research focus: To investigate the potential impacts on health and wellbeing of woodland activities provided in Forest School-style sessions. Research carried out with a group of young people with learning difficulties.
Wellbeing outcomes in brief: Woodland activities/games enabled participants to experience greater group cohesion. The wood provided opportunities for personal development and feelings of competence and confidence to showcase new skills, opportunities to connect and work with others.
Forest of Avon Trust – ShireLink – Forest ‘School’ for adults
Research focus: Forest School is promoted nationally as playing a beneficial role in child development, but less attention is given to its potential benefits for adults. We wanted to investigate the possible impacts on adults’ health and wellbeing from woodland activities.
Wellbeing outcomes in brief: Positive relationships between staff and service users working on an equal footing in a new environment, sensory and creative activities connected with flow/mindfulness, encouraging sense of purposefulness and feelings of competency.
Wellbeing outcomes in brief: The main motivating (and wellbeing inducing) factors for young people were to create habitats for wildlife, feel that they act in a nurturing way towards nature, and taking action towards a purpose greater than themselves.
Ruskin Mill College
Research focus: To find out why outdoor/practical/woodland work is important to students and how it can promote their development. Research examples can be used as evidence to substantiate what college staff believe anecdotally about the benefits of coppice work.
Wellbeing outcomes in brief: Sense of achievement through doing ‘proper work’, experiencing a sense of ‘awe’, social benefits of working as a team.
Embercombe – Young Leaders Project
Research focus: YLP works with young people aged 17-21 from ‘disadvantaged’ urban backgrounds. About 15% of mainly task-focused activities take place in woodland e.g. coppicing, coppice timber processing, tree planting. The research investigated what factors were associated with wellbeing.
Wellbeing outcomes in brief: Wellbeing was facilitated by the contrast between participants’ normal lives and being in a woodland environment. Carrying out meaningful tasks in a supportive environment provided a sense of purposefulness and competence.
Embercombe – Hereford Steiner School Residential
Research focus: A ten-day, one-off programme with participants from Hereford Steiner School, aged 15-16 years. About 40% of mainly task-focused activities took place in the woodland e.g. firewood collecting, tree planting and creative activities. The research investigated what factors were associated with certain wellbeing outcomes.
Wellbeing outcomes in brief: Time spent in a woodland environment provided access to positive emotions in the present and memories of positive experiences of wooded spaces from the past. In highly pressured peer environments, positive relationships with adults helped participants feel safe and supported.
Play Torbay – Fort Apache
Research focus: To find out more about any wellbeing benefits gained by the children and young people from their play in Fort Apache and which aspects facilitate this wellbeing. It also looked at how best to carry out ongoing action-research in an open and accessible play woodland site such as Fort Apache.
Wellbeing outcomes in brief: Psychological wellbeing benefits were found to be the most commonly experienced by Fort Apache users. A sense of purposefulness, being in control, and developing oneself were particularly common psychological outcomes.
Wellbeing outcomes in brief: Supporting family access to woodland sites and activities can allow parents to feel confident that they are enabling their children’s growth and development. Seeing their children engaging in a relationship with nature and having the opportunity to ‘get out’ with their families can help parents to feel good. Being in the company of other families can enable parents to feel confident, accepted and safe.
Stroudwoods Co-operative – Folly Wood
Research focus: To explore the well-being benefits of Folly Wood, focussing on the benefits which are related to the fact that Folly Wood is co-operatively owned; that is, on the well-being benefits which could not be provided by a non-community owned wood.
Wellbeing outcomes in brief: Wellbeing benefits are delivered through: contributing to preserving and enhancing woodland and increasing wellbeing benefits for others and ‘the greater good'; feeling safe and free to visit, enjoy and take action based on having had a stake in agreeing what is permissible and desirable; engendering social, political and environmental connectedness.Wellbeing benefits are delivered through: contributing to preserving and enhancing woodland and increasing wellbeing benefits for others and ‘the greater good'; feeling safe and free to visit, enjoy and take action based on having had a stake in agreeing what is permissible and desirable; engendering social, political and environmental connectedness.
Nature Workshops – Young Carers
Research focus: Investigating the wellbeing impacts of Nature Workshops’ project ‘Walk Tall and Proud in the Trees’ which aimed to improve the self esteem and well being of the young people whose lives are dominated by caring for their sick relatives.
Wellbeing outcomes in brief: Activities were found to make young carers feel safe and supported within and through social relationships, allowed them to developing themselves, and connect with others through shared beliefs and outlook. Measurable improvement in motivation and self awareness was noticed by parents and teachers.
Nature Workshops – Mental Health
Wellbeing outcomes in brief: Most participants increased their scores using the Warwick and Edinburgh Well Being Scale. The most evidenced wellbeing was focused around personal development, feelings of optimism about the future and feelings of closeness to the natural world
Read the summary report of Nature Workshops mental health project (pdf)
CCANW – Forest Football
Wellbeing outcome in brief: Positive emotions were experienced by participants through trying something new and unusual. This unusualness of the sport also made participants feel secure with their own personal limitations as everyone was new to the activity and discovering it for the first time.
Read the summary report of CCANW’s forest football project (pdf)
CCANW – Dancing Trails
Research focus: To explore the wellbeing outcomes of experiencing the performance of a dance piece along a forest trail, based at Haldon Forest Park, near Exeter. Audience members wore wireless headphones to hear the music, and followed the performance along the forest trail.
Wellbeing outcomes in brief: The unusualness of the woodland setting for this type of performance provided feelings of personal development for the audience by providing a new experience, and seeing others try something new. Following the dancers through the forest also provided feelings of enjoyment of physical activity whilst being engaged in a relationship with nature.
Read the summary report of CCANW’s dancing trails project (pdf)
Otterhead Forest School – Forest School for young teenagers
Research focus: To observe and document the impacts of the Forest School (FS) process on the wellbeing of young people, especially those who only came for 6 sessions, rather than longer term participants.
Wellbeing outcomes in brief: Play of all kinds is a very important component in FS sessions, even for older young people. It helps them feel in control, build relationships and creates the ground for many other positive outcomes. A crucial part of FS for this age group is being in a place that is different to the everyday and that provides the opportunity for developing relationships with adults.
Mayflower Academy – Physical health and wellbeing outcomes of LINE
Research focus: To explore children’s experience of outdoor learning in natural environments (LINE) and how that impacts on their physical health and well- being. The research took place at Mayflower Primary Academy, Plymouth, and expands on the Woodland Health for Youth (WHY) project that also took place at the school.
Wellbeing outcomes in brief: Children in Key Stage 1 want to play when outdoors. Increased freedom to learn through play outdoors at this stage in the children’s learning may improve their well-being, and so their abilities to learn and develop new skills. The preparation for learning outdoors is lengthy and complex for 6/7 year olds (wet weather kit storage, getting dressed etc.), but it is all a part of the process and necessary life skills for children to learn outdoors.
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