Short Breaks for Unpaid Carers in South-East Wales

18 Jun 2024

For Carer's Week, we have been reflecting on the positive impact of our Carer’s Programme. It can be a real challenge to manage the huge responsibilities of caring alongside your own health and wellbeing, and we wanted to recognise the huge contribution that carers make to families and communities. We secured funding from Amser Carers Trust to provide short breaks for unpaid carers in South-East Wales over the winter period.  

The Carer’s Programme was made up of 10 nature-based sessions, delivered in Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taf for both unpaid carers and those who they care for. Sessions were designed to provide an immersive experience in local green spaces, provide relief from the daily grind, encourage connection with nature and teach green skills to pass on to friends and family.  

The programme began in December 2023 at the Railway Café in Dowlais Community Centre.  Sessions involved willow weaving, tree ID, mindfulness, making bird fat balls and crafts such as dreamcatchers using natural materials. The community centre provided tea and cakes that were a welcome treat for our participants and the garden was used for mindful connection to nature (but participants were able to able to head inside if it became too cold).  

The sessions in Rhondda Cynon Taf took place at Meadow Street Community Gardens in Pontypridd, inside the wood roundhouse funded by ENRAW and developed by the Bottega Project. It was fantastic to have a fire here to keep participants warm, and prepare simple meals like soup and curry.  It was also a great space for the group to circle around and chat, and it provided a consistent base for each session. Activities included bushcraft, leathercraft and foraging, participants also made stools and mallets that were donated to the community gardens.     

The wellbeing sessions were designed to be a relaxed space where carers could participate as much as they felt comfortable with. Every contribution to the conversation were valued and there were lots of giggles and laughter! As the programme came to an end, it was clear that everyone had thoroughly enjoyed the sessions and connecting with each other.

"It was lovely to see the groups connect with each other and form a natural bond.  Participants would often say they don’t ‘slow down’ when outdoors to look around and see what’s around them.  It is always great to see this realisation and know they will have something positive to take away with them from each session.

Participants emphasised how these sessions had played an important part in helping them to improve to their wellbeing, and I’m grateful to be a part of their journey over two months.  They frequently expressed how much they enjoyed this time, and felt calm and ready to take on the remainder of their day.  I believe the project was a wonderful success and knowing participants now fully understand the beautiful benefits of being outdoors will encourage them to visit their local woodland areas more often.” 

Elise, Project Officer for Blaenau Gwent