John Muir Award Scotland Inclusion Manager, Lucy Sparks, spends time with an adult group who make the most of nature on their doorstep to help improve their health and wellbeing.
John Muir Day celebrations (15-23 April) this year saw John Muir Award participants from Operation Play Outdoors getting active and creative on the Kelvin Walkway in Glasgow. A photo walk formed the focus of the afternoon, with time for playing pooh sticks and creating Muir art to celebrate Muir’s 179th birthday.
The group are participating in Branching Out, Forestry Commission Scotland’s innovative programme for adults who use mental health services in Scotland. Delivered in partnership with organisations in the environmental and mental health sectors, it aims to promote positive mental health and wellbeing, and improve the quality of life for participants by engaging them in activities set in woodland environments.
The John Muir Trust finds that the Scottish Natural Heritage campaign Simple Pleasures Easily Found offers accessible activity ideas that adults can respond well to. We see how people feel comfortable with picking brambles, cloud spotting, watching the sun set or making a daisy chain because they have positive memories of these activities as children, parents or grandparents. These activities are varied, non-threatening and encouraging.
Craig Thomson from Operation Play Outdoors explains more “We understand the importance of being outdoors and the positive impact it has on both our physical and mental health. We try to do something different each week, to offer some variety – that way people get a taste of lots of things they can enjoy outside. Our sessions usually begin with boiling the Kelly Kettles so that we start by sharing a cuppa.”
“It’s nice to get out each week together and enjoy the fresh air” – Award participant
The John Muir Award encourages people of all backgrounds to connect with, enjoy, and care for wild places. In Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage is a key funder of Award activity, and since 2008, Branching Out has been using the John Muir Award as a framework for its twelve week courses, providing valuable recognition of peoples’ achievements. In 2016, 265 adults from across Scotland celebrated their personal wellbeing and skills development through achieving a John Muir Award as part of a Branching Out programme.
“Currently we know that social isolation and loneliness can be a major cause of depression. Branching Out and the John Muir Award address this by bringing people together, under the ‘sharing’ challenge. For those who struggle with forming relationships with others this can be life-changing. The programme also enables them to learn new skills and give back to their woodland and community. This can lead to improvements in mental health and even employment opportunities. It is a massive achievement if your mental health was a barrier to employment.” Nathalie Moriarty, Branching Out Programme Manager, Forestry Commission Scotland.
The Forestry Commission Scotland’s Branching Out is an innovative programme for adults who use mental health services in Scotland. Delivered in partnership with organisations in the environmental and mental health sectors, it aims to promote positive mental health and improve the quality of life for participants by engaging them in activities set in woodland environments. 265 adults from across Scotland celebrated their personal wellbeing and skills development through achieving a John Muir Award last year.
Find out more about our Simple Pleasures Easily Found project.
All images courtesy of Lucy Sparks, John Muir Trust.
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