Open Aye for Forestry Commission Scotland: Wellbeing of the Woods, 2017-present


Wellbeing of the Woods projects connect communities, woodlands and creativity for the benefit of people and the planet.

The sessions are feel-good group photo walks in urban forests where we come together, share experiences and focus on photographing nature.  In doing so, participants benefit from gentle exercise, creativity and social connections in the woods.

Open Aye and Scottish Forestry have been in partnership since 2017 running the Wellbeing of the Woods project to provide urban forest-based participatory photography workshops to a range of diverse groups in Scotland. The project’s aim is to sensitively facilitate creativity in urban forests to improve physical and mental health. Another major benefit of the project is enhancing peoples’ nature connectedness.

The WOW project is designed to provide people with varying needs a safe, natural and creative space to help improve their wellbeing. Open Aye has a long-held interest in how being creative in a natural environment can enhance personal wellbeing and a woodland setting, with participatory photography methodologies, has proven to have a profound impact on those involved. The project follows the New Economic Forum’s 5 Ways to Wellbeing model: Connect, Give, Be Active, Take Notice & Keep Learning. In addition, using creative methodologies in a woodland environment provides a natural sensory stimulation that fosters a calming state of meditative relaxation and invigoration. Open Aye believes that it is in this flow state that transformation can occur, improving personal wellbeing.

To date, around 400 people from over 25 countries have taken part in hundreds of visits to green spaces, mostly in Glasgow but also across Scotland.

Participants are mostly recruited from partner organisations, including Glasgow Association of Mental Health, Scottish Refugee Council, The British Red Cross, Aberlour Scottish Guardianship Service, Al Massar group in Falkirk, SRC Befriending Service, Waverly Care Charity and the Voices UK project. In addition, we also regularly work with the Scottish Mental Health and Arts Festival to present and promote participants work. Sustained benefits of this creative woodland groupwork methodology include increasing the ability to see things from a different perspective, creating positive memories, enhancing and recalling positive memories, fostering interpersonal relationships, improving self-esteem, personal growth and environmental stewardship.

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