Case Study - Social Prescribing the Woodland Way

7 Feb 2024

It is estimated that one in four people will experience a mental health condition at some point in their live and the rise in mental and physical health issues is putting  GPs and the NHS under significant additional stress. Outdoor nature-based social prescribing activities offer an alternative or complimentary way of treating mental, physical and social issues, using a more holistic and / or preventative approach. 

Coed Lleol / Small Woods are providing a programme of woodland wellbeing activities across Swansea and Neath Port Talbot which includes 6-week programmes for specific groups of participants, primarily young people with mental health needs. The sessions include a range of activities chosen to meet the needs of specific participants, including mindfulness, nature art, bushcraft and campfire cooking, and woodland walking.

We have been working closely with 'Y Bont', the new provision at Llangatwg Community School for pupils struggling with behaviour and attendance, some otherwise being at risk of exclusion. The purpose of our sessions was to improve these issues, and give pupils as many opportunities as possible to build self-esteem, improve confidence, and hopefully prepare them for getting back into the classroom.  

Irene, a Behaviour Support and Guidance Officer at 'Y Bont' shared that 'a lot of the pupils don’t really go out of the home setting and spend a lot of time indoors, usually gaming. So, when they do spend time outdoors, learning new skills in a different setting, this gives them a different outlook on life and the challenges they face. Some young people are out all the time and others are not allowed out at all. I think it would be great to have a happy medium where there are boundaries and respect, so children and parents feel comfortable and safe.'

Irene reported that all of the pupils who participated benefited from experiencing the outdoors, and the woodland specifically.

'It built relationships and bonds, not only between pupils but also with the staff and activity leaders and improves their communication skills. Their self-confidence and self-esteem increased, as they feel they’ve learnt something new and they are capable, being out in the fresh air is good for your general wellbeing and made pupils aware that they can get out of their bedrooms in a safe and healthy environment. We have seen improved attendance and behaviour and relationships  with pupils who didn’t really know each other, formed new relationships which grew confidence with the young people and give them a different look on how to build new relationships and how to do it. Over the sessions, the pupil's ability to listen to instructions really grew, and they were always really excited to attend on the day itself.'

‘When can we go back out to do the wood thing again?’ Y Bont pupil with low attendance 
‘I love this because I live up the mountain!’ Y Bont pupil taking part in a session  

We hope to continue this wonderful partnership and continue to engage many more pupils with woodland wellbeing long into the future.