Bushcraft, bee bankings and forest bathing: the winners of this year´s NHS Forest Awards

The winners of this year´s NHS Forest Awards were announced during our annual conference, held online on 19th October. We were absolutely delighted with the calibre of award submissions this year and are very excited to present these five projects. The breadth and creativity of projects across the country continues to be really inspiring, and it is clear that nature connection and nature recovery is playing an ever more important role in healthcare throughout the UK.

NHS Forest award for engaging people with nature

Winner: Wild Skills Wild Spaces, Powys Teaching Health Board

This project, in partnership with Cardiff Met University and Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust, engages adults and young people in ecotherapy to empower people who would not typically engage with outdoor activities or prescribed therapeutic interventions. They provide free, inclusive and accessible sessions at local nature reserves, including bushcraft, food growing, and other outdoor activities. Over 50 people are currently engaged in the project.

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NHS Forest Award for the creation of an innovative green space

Winner: CW+ Sky Garden, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital

Photos: Britt Willoughby Dyer

The Sky Garden, designed by Jinny Blom, is an innovative way to bring the outdoors inside to support cognitive function, wellbeing, and the rehabilitation of intensive care patients as well as a space for loved ones and staff. Adjacent to the ICU, this indoor garden includes a physiotherapy area as well as a sociable space for consultations to take place amongst the plants. It is fully accessible for wheelchairs and hospital beds. The planting, which includes trees as well as smaller plants, is maintained organically and the furniture is constructed with natural materials.

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NHS Forest award for pioneering use of green space by healthcare professionals

Winner: Welcome to Our Woods, Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board

Welcome to Our Woods has worked with a huge range of NHS departments: neurological services, brain injury hospitals, and adults with learning disabilities, as well as with social prescribing from local GP surgeries and the homeless charity Platform.

They base activities around forest bathing, mindfulness meditations, and bushcraft and nature-based activities. Throughout lockdown they continued to skillshare on Zoom. They also have a pioneering digital version of Woodland Therapy for NHS staff, through which self-care toolboxes are delivered to people’s houses and workplaces. A month-long Zoom programme of woodland therapy was run in March.

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NHS Forest award for nature recovery

Winner: Edible Airedale, Airedale General Hospital

Edible Airedale has nature recovery at the heart of its growing project on the 43-acre hospital estate. They have chosen their orchard trees specifically to benefit the flora and fauna around the hospital grounds. They have planted sea buckthorn to support their pair of breeding oystercatchers that return to the site year after year. As well as this they have created “bee bankings”, where soil is made into a bank and covered with sand, pebbles and mud for bees to burrow into as an ideal living habitat. In return, the bees pollinate the orchard! Hedgerows on the site are managed to encourage wildlife and protect hedgehogs.

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NHS Forest award for the most trees planted for the NHS Forest in 2020-21

Winner: Guild Lodge, Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust

One thousand trees were planted at Guild Lodge to create a coppice woodland of willow providing a beautiful space to enjoy woodland walkways and supporting nature in nearby wetland areas. The trees also provide raw materials for use in therapeutic woodwork sessions and for building structures such as fencing around Guild Lodge’s Grow Your Own allotment project.

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