nature based artwork
Hayley Carmichael
Communications Manager
3 minute read

Sussex Partnership's Tammie Cook-Duncan ( Lead Nurse East ATS) came to the Care Without Carbon with an idea to take service users into nature to aid their recovery. The Trust was able to secure funding to trial the approach which has proven to be effective and valued.

Tammie explained, “Myself and two colleagues (Maria Bejarano - Mental Health and Wellbeing Practitioner and Heather Ball - CBT Therapist/ senior Nurse/ Mindfulness Teacher) ran a six week Nature Connection group for clients under East ATS. We held this at Bevendean Community Garden – this site was chosen as it has a garden, a fire pit area, a pond and is next to woods and the Downs. It is also on a bus route from the City Centre, making it easy to access and reducing the carbon footprint of clients and facilitators needing to drive or use taxis.”

Of the eight scheduled participants (all were evaluated to ensure they would be safe in an environment with fire and tools), five attended all six of the sessions. Tammie said, “Each session started with a cuppa and a chat around the fire, we then did a mindfulness or grounding practice, followed by the main activity. Every week there was a different main activity; boundary walk and planting, making wildflower seed bombs, looking at the garden using eye loops and doing art/ haiku writing.  using the five senses in the garden, making bug hotels and finally a green walk and evaluation session.

Fire in a fire pitKettle on a fire in a community gardenBug hotel

Participants with special needs and mobility issues were supported so that all could safely take part each week, with the group working to ensure everyone felt able to get involved.

The benefits of time outdoors

The Nature Group premise was for the participants to connect both with nature, and each other; plus to then continue beyond the sessions with their own connections into nature, whether via a community garden or their own explorations.

A growing body of research shows evidence that being in nature, in green spaces and being outdoors is beneficial to our mental and overall well-being.

Four of the five main participants completed evaluation forms at the end of the final session. They all said the activities were 'good' or 'excellent', two said the group had 'most likely' improved their mood and one said 'definitely' and one 'to some extent'. Two said that attending the group had increased their confidence around other people 'definitely' one said 'most likely' and one said 'to some extent'.

Person examining a pondArt work created from nature such as leaves

One participant said, “I've thoroughly enjoyed the course after a nervous start about interacting with new people. I feel more confident about meeting new people in a group setting. Being in such a great spot surrounded by trees and the allotment has been realty calming. Sitting by the fire is relaxing. The group has been uplifting and a great start to the week".