Healing By Nature is a nature-based intervention initiative spearheaded by Peta Temple, the Advanced Lived Experience Development Lead at Lighthouse which is part of Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. It is a groundbreaking project involving a four-acre woodland site adjacent to Liskeard’s Community Hospital. Plans are in place to transform it into a site for nature-based interventions for staff and patients. There will be three yurts, a camp kitchen, an allotment, and a wet relaxation area (wood-fired hot tub and cold plunge pool!). There will be eight distinct locations that will be rentable as therapy and activity spaces for a variety of community groups. The finished design is the result of an intensive two-year coproduction process that involved community consultation with over 30 voluntary, community or social enterprise (VCSE) organisations and multiple NHS teams involved in mental health delivery. 

Cornwall is a county blessed with beautiful green spaces. The trust’s Chief Medical Officer, Adrian Flynn, expects that “by 2029 50% of services could be delivered in a non-clinical space”.  

An onsite camp kitchen will be supplied with produce from the allotment and local growing projects to create daily shared lunches. Peta points out that a lot of the issues that lead to suicidality are “a thwarted sense of belonging and connection”. So, by creating a space where people can come for a hot meal with people around, you can be as together as you want to be. For those who are isolated but do not like groups, this can be a space where people can relearn relationships through sharing lunch. 

Healing by Nature received 150 trees from the NHS Forest. They are planting these to act as a screen around their therapeutic spaces to add to the sense of privacy in these areas. They also hope to receive some orchard trees next season which will expand their existing veteran orchard and contribute produce to their shared lunches.  

When asked how Peta found the process of receiving trees she said, “it was almost too easy!” 

Peta was in part inspired by Growing Better Lives in Slough which was founded by Rex Haigh. This project is based on the theory of Enabling Environments. Enabling Environments have the following qualities: belonging, involvement, structure, development, boundaries, safety, communication, empowerment, leadership and openness. They do this by creating a non-hierarchical, accessible, and therapeutic space for patients and staff alike.  

It is hoped there will also be an app that lets users see and book on to groups that interest them. It will also connect to other green spaces across Cornwall that are running nature-based interventions. The app will be used to help evaluate the outcomes of this project, including collecting data on burnout and a nature connectedness score to be able to benchmark against other services. 

This flagship project is one the NHS Forest will be watching closely. It embraces community care and nature-based solutions in a woodland setting. We applaud Peta and the team for their tenacity to get this project off the ground, and we hope it becomes an inspiration for other similar projects across the UK.  

If you have been inspired by this project, you can order trees for your own healthcare woodland project from the NHS Forest.

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