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The Green Minds project is a community ecotherapy service in Wales. Jess Tanner, the project's co-lead, reports on how it is adapting digitally to coronavirus.

Our ecotherapy services provide a supportive and caring environment for individuals with existing mental health challenges or for those at risk of becoming mentally unwell.

Ordinarily we meet twice a week for gardening and walking mindfulness sessions, but the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown that shortly followed meant that, just as the growing season was getting underway, our face-to-face activities were put on hold.

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In March, we started our seed sowing for various community garden projects in our local area, including a new collaboration with Brecon Cathedral, an area of walled garden in Brecon, as well as starting to build up stock for local spring and summer plant sale fundraisers.

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We knew how difficult it was going to be for those that rely on regular group meet-ups to help maintain their wellbeing to have these services stop so suddenly, and we knew we had to keep our group together somehow.

Learning curve

We quickly set about moving our activities online, first creating a private messaging group so our members could continue to stay connected, sharing photographs of their walks and the wildlife they encountered, helping one another identify birds and plants, but most of all encouraging each other to make the most of nature and our daily walk during this time.

It's been a steep learning curve for us, trying to maintain a human presence within the digital, but it's also opened doors to new levels of invention and creativity.

Jess Tanner, Green Minds

It was also important for us to create a wider reach within our community and put together some open resources connecting in to the seasons and in the here and now.

These resources are for people to engage with in their own time, within their homes, gardens, or whilst out on their daily walk. Last week, with the support of our amazing team at Brecon & District Mind we launched our Green Minds website, an online community for our members and local community to contribute nature-based writings, photos and activity ideas for all.

It's been a steep learning curve for us, trying to maintain a human presence within the digital, but it's also opened doors to new levels of invention and creativity. We hope, for now, that our online community will serve as a bridge between the social isolation and lack of face-to-face contact so many are feeling, until the time when we slowly begin to re-emerge.

I have to remain confident that this time we are in, as difficult as it is, will shine an even brighter light on the importance of nature-connection

Jess Tanner, Green Minds
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As we begin to capture how our members have been coping during this time and what the needs are, and are going to be, our funders have been extremely understanding and flexible throughout all of our services.

Healing power

I have been having many conversations on the phone with our members, family and friends who all say that this 'great pause' has enabled them the time to connect more deeply with the natural world, that this is something we don't want to lose sight of once life begins to pick up pace again.

There is no doubt in my mind of the healing power of nature, of working together as a group, tending plants and walking among the trees and forests, and so I have to remain confident that this time we are in, as difficult as it is, will shine an even brighter light on the importance of nature-connection, a sense of our own nature, and how and where we find belonging in the world.

Of course, my hope is that our project and the ecotherapy services on hold all over the country will survive this time and be able to continue this important work post-Covid-19.

  • Jess Tanner has worked in community arts and health and facilitated nature-based courses and events for the past 10 years. This year she completed her apprenticeship as a gardener with the Women's Farm & Garden Association, as well as achieving an Award in Social and Therapeutic Horticulture with Thrive. She co-leads Green Minds with Em Charles who has a background in social care provision, having worked in the third sector for over 10 years. Primarily focusing on mental health support, Em completed her Award in Social and Therapeutic Horticulture in 2017.
  • Discover more about the Green Minds ecotherapy project

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