Welcome to the new blog for Wiltshire Wildlife Trust's Wellbeing Programme! Here you can find out what we have been up to, and what activities we have planned for the future.

What is the Wellbeing Programme?

For those who are not familiar with the project, Wellbeing is designed to help people with mental health conditions – such as depression, anxiety, low mood and stress – by offering outdoor conservation activities on our nature reserves.

Research has shown that spending time outside, breathing in fresh air and doing something positive to help the natural environment can help those with mental health issues onto the road to recovery.

Our activity days are informal and friendly, and give participants the opportunity to do something meaningful and worthwhile whilst meeting and mingling with people in a similar position to themselves. The project has been running in Wiltshire since 2008, thanks to funding from Wiltshire Council. 

Exciting plans for 2017

This year, with funding from the Big Lottery Fund, we are extending our work into Swindon. The project is still aimed at people with mental health conditions but in particular we would like to reach out to those from the veteran, ex-offender and ethnic minority communities.

We will be running three groups which will meet weekly for five-week blocks each in the Swindon area; our first one – on Thursdays – is already up-and-running. So far this year, the team have planted oak and hazel in Hagbourne Copse Nature Reserve, and have started preparing the vegetable plots at Lower Moor Farm. We will be planting courgettes, potatoes, runner beans, tomatoes, beetroot, chard and kale as well as a range of herbs. The end of each season will be marked with a celebratory barbeque where we will literally be able to sample the fruits of our labour.

If you are reading this blog and live in the Swindon area, and feel you may benefit from this programme, or know someone who might, or are a GP, a community leader, or work in the mental health service or probation service, and think your clients may benefit from this programme, please get in touch with us on 01380 736099 or email swindonwellbeing@wiltshirewildlife.org – likewise, if you are a potential referrer please give us a call if you would like to come along to a taster day to see what it's all about.

Ongoing work in Wiltshire

In Wiltshire, work has continued at Roundway Orchard in Devizes – planting wildflower seeds, pruning trees and harvesting apples thanks to the efforts of our west Wiltshire group which meets on Tuesdays.

Our north Wiltshire group has been busy installing noticeboards at Lower Moor Farm and Ravensroost Nature Reserve, coppicing at Green Lane Wood Nature Reserve, and planting bulbs at St Julians Community Woodland.

In the south of the county, on Fridays, the team has laid down boardwalk at Blackmoor Copse, and clearing scrub at the chalk downland nature reserve Martin Down.

Not all weeks have involved hard labour (!) and participants have also enjoyed going on fungal forays, and, of course, have been treated to a tasty barbeque to mark the end of the season.

From April, we will be running only two groups in Wiltshire – on Tuesdays for west and north Wiltshire, picking up from Trowbridge at 10.30am and then from Devizes at 11am; and Fridays for south Wiltshire, picking up in Salisbury at 10.30am.

It's an amazing feeling to know that the work we are doing on these reserves will not only benefit wildlife but also the participants working with us. One of our participants recently said to us, "The Wellbeing Programme is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I have loved every minute of it!”

If you would like to join the programme, or know someone who might benefit, do get in touch with us on 01380 736098 or email wellbeing@wiltshirewildlife.org