The power of woodland to heal the mind and spirit

Matthew Barnett visits the Cart Shed, a charity providing a natural, outdoor space to help people with mental health problems

Monday 23 November 2020 11:36 GMT
The Cart Shed provides an oasis in the woods for healing
The Cart Shed provides an oasis in the woods for healing (Veronika Lavey)

Tucked away in deepest North Herefordshire is a small area of woodland which is home to a remarkable social experiment that may have far-reaching implications for the treatment of mental health. The Cart Shed charity was founded nine years ago by a dedicated group of volunteers headed up by Katie Eastaugh, daughter of a former Bishop of Hereford, whose own experiences with community projects had convinced her of the need for a new way of dealing with mental health issues.

Its roots go back to her involvement with woodland-based social initiatives, which included the creation of the Wye Wood Project in 2003.  At first the intention was to provide a natural, outdoor space for people to enjoy, but when it closed a few years later Katie and her team realised that they had discovered something that had far greater implications and was worth developing.

As she explains: “We’d begun by creating a facility that wasn’t overtly for people with health problems, but after a while realised it was about more than just the natural environment.  It demonstrated to us that a woodland setting could be hugely beneficial for people with mental health issues such as depression.  Depression is a serious form of mental illness and often means that you drop everything you used to enjoy, such as friends and activities.  But by coming into the woods it’s possible to make new friends and learn new things.”

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