Our Social Purpose Programme

A growing body of empirical research suggests that brief contact with natural environments improves well-being.

McMahon and Estes (2015)

Our vision is “to improve and boost the wellbeing of people and planet”: our Social Purpose programme drives us as a social enterprise and allows us to ensure that wellbeing is for all. We provide equity of access and believe that everyone should have opportunities and experiences that can improve their wellbeing. Through grant funding, and the reinvestment of profits from our Open to All and Corporate Programmes, we provide these opportunities to marginalised communities and the individuals that make up these communities so that they can benefit from our “social prescription to the natural health service”. We particularly focus on people with multiple and complex needs and/or those experiencing isolation and loneliness.

Those who are connected to nature do more to protect it.

Mackay & Schmitt (2019)

By giving everyone access to our programmes, irrespective of their circumstances, we aspire to make a positive contribution to nature and to play a part in mitigating the effects of the climate emergency.

All our workshops are informed by robust scientific research into the positive psychological and physically cathartic effects of time spent in nature. This research overwhelmingly supports what has been described for thousands of years of the positive affect of nature immersion. Our work is particularly informed by over 50 years of research by Gallup into the Five Essentials for Wellbeing and the new economic foundation’s Five Ways to Wellbeing (nef, 2008). Our programmes are a blend of traditional greenwood craft, bushcraft, forest bathing (a.k.a. shinrin yoku), environmental activities, conservation work and sustainable woodland management. In addition to the Five Ways, nef described nature and food as being important for wellbeing: we embed this into our work, the latter provided through the sharing of a healthy meal cooked on the open fire using locally sourced ingredients.

The Greenwood Music Project (February 2016-February 2017)

Gorgeous day in a relaxing, calm and quiet place. The making of musical instruments was great; to then end in a rhythmic performance. Highly recommended. Good for your soul- thank you!”
Workshop Participant

A pilot project that designed, delivered and evaluated a series of woodland workshops that are central to our social purpose.  This pilot allowed us to test our workshops in the community and to provide us with proof of concept as to their benefits.  The focus was on supporting people with complex needs; mental health issues, drug and alcohol addiction and other barriers which prevented them from fulfilling their lives.

The workshops were a unique combination of green woodwork with music; enabling individuals to experience and learn a range of traditional skills, using traditional tools and techniques. The participants made xylophones and other musical instruments, using sustainably and locally sourced wood.

Once the instruments were made, the group then took part in a composition workshop, culminating in a collaborative piece of music which was recorded and given to the participants along with the instruments they had made. 

A key component of this project was the evaluation of the health and wellbeing benefits of these workshops. These workshops were evaluated using the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS21)- a 21 item self-report. The evaluation was conducted by Psychology undergraduates in partnership with the University of Plymouth’s Cognition Institute.

Key points:

  • Six, two-and-a-half day workshops were delivered: three within the woods, three within a community setting.
  • We collaborated with a range of organisations supporting people with multiple and complex needs including Hamoaze House, The Dove Project and Longreach Drug/Alcohol Rehabilitation Centre.
  • All workshops, whether based in the woods or within a community venue, reduced anxiety and depression and improved wellbeing as measured using the DAS21 tool.
  • Workshops delivered in the woods produced a larger improvement to wellbeing reported.
  • One key learning point was the accessibility issues when delivering workshops in the woods. This led to the development of the Greenwood Music Access for All project below.

Greenwood Music Access for All (December 2017- November 2018)

“I can only say what a wonderful day with such good company. Thank you”
Workshop Participant

After the successful delivery of The Greenwood Music Project, we held consultations with organisations and participants involved to review our facilities and what we offer to allow access and opportunity for all. Through this review the following barriers to full and open access for all were evident:

  • The lack of toilet facilities and a dry area in the woods deterred many from taking part and for some of those taking part, impacted negatively on their experience of the workshops.
  • The access to the woods for people with limited mobility, disabilities or those in wheelchairs was limited and acted as a major barrier to taking part or, for those taking part, had a major impact on their experience.

Greenwood Music is committed to equitable access for all, so further Awards for All funding allowed us to:

  • Make a woodland area wheelchair friendly with a suitable surface to allow access for all to the workshops.
  • Construct two composting toilets, one specifically modified for wheelchair users.
  • Build a shelter to act as a ‘dry area’ and storage for specialist tools and supportive aids.
  • Design, adapt and pilot five greenwood music workshops specifically for people with physical disabilities and limited mobility which would be free to all and include the purchase and design of specialist tools and equipment, E.g.  shave horses for wheelchairs users.

Having developed fully accessible facilities- an outdoor classroom for all- we worked in partnership with organisations such as the Dove Project and developed new partnerships with similar organisations such as SCOPE, The Highbury Trust and Dame Hannah’s, to pilot workshops specifically for people with disabilities. 

Key outcome: Through the development of our facilities, equipment and our ‘access for all’ workshops, we were able to offer workshops to community groups in the confidence that all members of that community can access this cathartic programme.

Wellbeing in Nature (January 2019- January 2020)

Always teatime with Greenwood Music
I was anxious about going but came and I am so pleased I did. The surroundings were so calming and beautiful. The guys explained everything perfectly and it was really enjoyable and refreshing to do something new. The music activity was great fun and we were spoilt with a lovely lunch.”
Wellbeing in Nature Autumn participant

In September 2018, Greenwood Music, along with Fotonow CIC, was invited to be a delivery partner on the above project led by the Zebra Collective. This project was informed by the robust research outlined above and reports that the interventions most effective in improving mental wellbeing were those with a positive focus including:

  • Asset-based community development
  • Positive Psychology
  • Solution-focused (therapies)

In its follow up report Five Ways to Wellbeing: New Applications, New Ways of Thinking (2011) nef presented some key recommendations advising any programmes to:

  • Be based on experiential learning.
  • Involve active learning.
  • Have a population approach for wider social impact.

Zebra Collective’s work with communities is strength-based and utilises a solution-focused approach. This pilot developed an experiential active learning project. In collaboration with Hamoaze House and The Zone- both supporting people with multiple and complex needs in Plymouth- we worked with two cohorts of 10 people. We delivered a programme of six workshops per group, mostly set within our 40-acre ancient woodland. The programme included a Wellbeing Audit, solution-focused goal setting and planning, forest therapy activities and workshops in photography, sound-recording and editing. Participants were supported to co-design the programme. Having completed the programme, participants developed a ‘wellbeing action plan’ and had the opportunity to become conservation volunteers as part of our ‘Friends of Caradon Wood’ project (see below) as well as contributing to a ‘sharing’ event. 

For evaluation, we used the short Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (SWEMWBS) to measure the impact on participants’ wellbeing as well as the use of filmmaking/audio recording to document and reflect on the process and tell the story.

Project Outcomes:

  • Two programmes were delivered: Wellbeing in Nature Spring (for participants from the Zone’s Insight project for people experiencing early episodes of psychosis) & Wellbeing in Nature Autumn (for beneficiaries from Hamoaze House for people experiencing multiple and complex needs).
  • Feedback from participants, and staff supporting them was overwhelmingly positive as to the positive impact on individual’s wellbeing: this was mirrored by the SWEMBWS-based evaluation.
  • Supported by Fotonow CIC, participants produced a range of creative output using photography and sound to share their experience and tell their story.
  • The value of the latter was huge: it promoted learning, shared their experiences and demonstrated the social impact of this project.
  • The use of photography and sound is now embedded within Greenwood Music’s Social Impact Framework.
  • A strong collaboration was developed between Greenwood Music and Fotonow: both are committed to rolling out this pilot wider and are focused on attracting funding to achieve this.
  • Greenwood Music and Fotonow are now collaborating across many different projects merging their expertise and skills to develop and deliver innovative projects that boost wellbeing.

Friends of Caradon Wood (January 2020- ongoing)

Fab day. Really enjoyed it. Learnt stuff. Would love to come back and do other stuff. Thank you so much."
Friend of Caradon Wood
Natural cordage protecting coppiced hazel stock

Note: This new project was due to start in February 2020. Two conservation days were delivered but in March 2020 we had to put the project on hold due to the pandemic. The project will resume once restrictions allow.

The project is simple: over a 15-month period, we will offer a strength-based ‘social prescription to the natural health service’ to boost wellbeing: to give back to nature whilst learning new skills, connecting with each other and noticing their environment and being active.  A WhatsApp group has been set up and, once a month, participants will be able to book on to a conservation day giving their time to support the CIC to sustainably manage the woods. Examples of activities in the plan will be coppicing, hedge laying, building simple wood-frame structures, plant control and the planting of native trees: giving to the planet. Transport will be provided, and all participants will connect over a lunch cooked on an open fire as part of the experience.

Fotonow CIC will support the learning of media skills and facilitating the group around capturing the experience- to notice it. Fotonow’s input will demonstrate social impact through capturing ‘stories as data’ via soundscapes and other creative output. In addition, we will use the Short Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale to measure the impact on participants’ wellbeing.

We will engage participants through our strong links with organisations supporting people with multiple and complex needs. 

The steering group we plan to develop with our ‘friends’ will inform the wider roll-out, and funding of this project along with partner organisations. Our steering group will act as an advisory body to our social enterprise as it develops and grows with a clear social purpose.

Wellbeing in Nature with POP+’s Positive People Project (May 2018- ongoing)

Bannock bread cooking in the Dutch Oven to accompany sausages (with vegan option)
I was anxious about going but came and I am so pleased I did. The surroundings were so calming and beautiful. The guys explained everything perfectly and it was really enjoyable and refreshing to do something new and we were spoilt with a lovely lunch.”
Participant - Positive People Programme

Since 2018, Greenwood Music has designed and delivered a range of Wellbeing in Nature workshops for POP+’s Positive People programme. Positive People aims to help individuals who are out of work to build their confidence and develop their skills. The programme is personally tailored to individual needs and includes help with personal development, health and wellbeing, and to develop life-skills including digital technology.

Greenwood Music’s one-day workshops form an important part of this individualised programme. Our workshops offer Greenwood Music’s unique blend of greenwood craft, bushcraft, nature immersion, conservation and woodland management activities in our 40-acre ancient woodland. As always, a healthy lunch is cooked on the open fire and provides an opportunity to share a meal and each other’s experiences in this unique natural setting.


Wellbeing in Nature Online (September 2020- ongoing)

"I really did enjoy watching this today, just makes you get up and get out in the woods and I learnt so much about trees and the actual wildlife. I'm looking forward to going down when lockdown is finished."
Zoom session participant
Whittling a butter knife by the fire

Due to the pandemic, Greenwood Music was unable to run any workshops in our woods whilst our lockdown society experienced ‘nature deficit’, loneliness & isolation. For our social enterprise to survive Covid-19, we wanted to reinvent our offer and take activities online: bringing nature into people’s homes. 

Research by Ulrich (1979) and others support the wellbeing benefits of viewing nature and we want to tap into this. Research also shows that viewing nature scenes leads to increased serotonin production and more rapid recovery from stress:

"Our brains respond to images of nature as if we were actually outdoors.”

New Scientist 06 June 2020

We have started to film, edit and share videos titled Nature Immersion with Greenwood Music. These include bushcraft, woodcraft, nature immersion & healthy eating on a budget etc. We have started to facilitate zoom meetings where participants are able to Challenge Greenwood Music: deciding what part of our offer they want us to film, edit & share. We then share our videos via zoom and discuss the content in the context of wellbeing. For this project we are working with PLUSS, who run the Positive People and social prescribing programmes in Cornwall and POP+, who run the Positive People programme in Plymouth. Having been interviewed about nature & wellbeing by CHAOS TV, we will continue to work with the latter to share our footage to a wider, and generally younger audience. Feedback from viewers to date about the shared films has been very positive. We also plan to use our social media channels to share content.

Project Outcomes:

  • A series of ‘home-made films have been produced and shared. These include cooking on a budget and Tree ID.
  • Six, 10-minute Nature Immersion films are being filmed in collaboration with a filmmaker from Fotonow and will be shared widely.
  • Six, 30-second Vignettes are in development with Fotonow and again, will be widely shared via social media.

Nature Immersion (April 2021- onward)

Greenwood Music’s activities are designed to promote and support health and wellbeing built on the Five Ways to Wellbeing (nef, 2008, 2011) and other research outlined above. We have identified a growing concern for the mental health of young adults who are living in supported accommodation, through our work with LiveWest’s Plymouth Foyer.  

We will offer a “Nature Immersion” experience. Our intervention will act as a catalyst for self-reflection and reduce stress, anxiety and depression linked to the long-term restrictions of the lockdown. We will encourage our groups to think of the environment in a new way. This will enable them to examine their own lives and their impacts on the environment, helping them to live more sustainable lives.

We will run a series of six “Nature Immersion” days: participants will come to the woods where we will deliver a combination of greenwood music, greenwood craft, conservation and mindful nature immersion experiences. As always, food will be provided; this is always a great catalyst for the sharing of thoughts, feelings and experiences.  After spending so much time dependent on enforced digital communication, each workshop will act as a “digital detox”.

Our unique position enables us to use our 40-acre ancient woodland, whilst maintaining social distancing measures to deliver an immersive experience, aimed at improving the wellbeing of these young people.

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