What is Social Forestry?
Social Forestry is a rather inappropriate name because it is not much to do with forestry. Social Forestry is the name given to health and well-being programmes in a woodland setting. A better definition might be “Forest School for grown-ups.” It is about self-confidence, self-esteem, social awareness and interaction, cooperative problem solving and working.
There has been much research into the benefits of being in natural environments, particularly woodlands. It has been accepted in many countries, including the UK, that there is a therapeutic value to being in woodlands. Many health, education and care providers are looking to commission Social Forestry programmes.
The Woodland Skills Centre has been developed to be able to provide Social Forestry programmes as well as courses in traditional crafts. The Centre has an enviable site in the heart of the Clwydian Range AONB with 45 acres of woodland and 5 acres with allotments, heritage orchard, arboretum, wild flower meadow, apiary, tree nursery, polytunnel, workshops and a new timber-frame building with meeting room, office, kitchen and w.c with full disabled access.
The Centre runs Social Forestry programmes throughout the week. Current commissioning bodies include : Social Services for adults with learning disabilities; Special Education schools; Pupil Inclusion; charities working with adults with alcohol and substance misuse problems; Youth Service; private residential care homes; Blind Veterans UK and agencies working with the long-term unemployed.
The programmes that the Centre runs include a wide range of activities – woodland management, coppice and greenwood crafts, tree nursery, working on the allotments, managing the apiary, making, siting and monitoring bird boxes, making outdoor furniture and maintenance of the site and buildings.
The Centre sees this productive work as a vital part of its Social Forestry programmes. One of its key descriptions of its work is “person centred but task based.” It is good to get people out of doors, to socialise and to enjoy the experience but it is important that, at the end of the day, participants should be able to step back and see that they have achieved something visible and beneficial – to the Centre, to people, to the environment or to wildlife.
The Centre is self-financing and does not receive any funding apart from the income it generates from the services it provides.
It has received a number of awards for its work : a gold medal from the Royal Forestry Society and first prize in the Community Woodland section of the Excellence in Forestry Awards in 2015 and a gold medal and first prize for Community Woodlands from the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society in 2016.
The Centre is also a leading provider of training for people who want a qualification to deliver Social Forestry and runs 4 day level 3 OCN courses. It recognises that cost is a limiting factor for many people and so fees are kept to a minimum and free camping and all food is included.
For further details, contact the Centre.