Case study: Tom in Anglesey

5 Apr 2023

I am 41 years old, and I have three young daughters ranging from ages one to seven – so life is lively - my wife and I even got married during lockdown! 

We moved to this part of Wales because it was near to my job at the time. It is a beautiful part of the country, and we were lucky enough to buy a lovely cottage just outside a small town,with some land, in Conwy. As a child, I was always outdoors and playing in nature, but somehow that part of myself had been taken over by work.  

My job was high-level and very pressurised, and I was a successful manager for seven years. Things changed for me during the covid years, my job in management became even more pressurised and I got little to no support. The pressures mounted up and it resulted in me having a mental breakdown. I made myself really ill and eventually I had to quit my job – I just needed to stop. I was suffering from anxiety and stress, and it hit me pretty hard. So, I just had to walk away from it. 

From that point, I needed to slow down and refocus on what was important and what I wanted to do. I had been offered a coracle-making course to go on in Coed Llwynonn in Anglesey with a tutor who also is a leader for Coed Lleol. The course was transformative, as I found that it wasn’t just the skills that I was learning that made a difference to me, but that it was being in the woods itself. I could feel the healing process going on by just being in the woods – it was incredible.  

I got the bug and signed up for a gate-making course and a charcoal-making course. Then I started on the Coed Lleol Agored-level Coppicing and then the Coppice Products course; and I attended a Foraging course with Coed Lleol too. These have helped me to keep on track mentally and I have learnt loads. I learnt all about coppicing techniques and how to use the products effectively, sustainably, and to benefit the health of the woodland. I now have a better understanding of coppicing and the cycles of growth and I have two accredited courses behind me. It is something I am excited to get started this winter on my own land.  

Although these were learning experiences, I gained so much more than that – they really helped my well-being too. The tutors are incredible, and you just learn so much from the wealth of knowledge that they have. The fire was a great focus for conversation and connecting with the other participants and everyone had their own story to tell.  

My well-being has massively improved – it’s been a rocky old road – but I feel like I have finally healed. For me, it was the combination of being immersed in nature and learning about the processes and skills of traditional crafts that has been one of the drivers for my recovery. It was both a sensory and an immersive experience – I particularly remember a day when I was working in the woods with the draw knife, the fire was crackling, there was the smell of the smoke and, in the distance, someone blacksmithing – I just felt all of that tension I had built up start to wash away. It is being in nature and having a sense of purpose that is a great healer for me.   

The skills that I have learnt through all these courses, including the ones run by Coed Lleol, have helped me to understand the land and our natural resources better and helped me to manage and use my own land more effectively and start to specialise in some traditional crafts. I hadn’t done anything like this previously – I worked in an office! My kids have also benefited – we go on walks, and I am teaching the oldest one the tree names – she is super keen to learn more. They all love being outdoors – even the baby. She has a hearing issue, so being outside and using all her senses, is even more important for her.  

My ambition is now to buy a small woodland and set up a forest school, where people can sit in nature and tell stories, relax and have the space to recover from mental difficulties. I have been on a journey over the last year and with the help of Coed Lleol and its leaders not only do I feel restored mentally, but I also have a brand-new focus and career trajectory!