The Vyne conservation project provides clients with the opportunity for greater social integration within the community, as well as helping their physical and mental wellbeing. Our horticultural therapists teach conservation skills in Morgaston Woods, an area of 13th century woodland and every activity has a purpose for the client as well as for the conservation project.
I love volunteering here, it’s so rewarding to help the client gardeners at Thrive, but to also be involved in conservation work too helping the National Trust!Julie, volunteer
The kind of tasks clients may engage in vary from removing non-native invasive species, clearing irrigation systems and ditches or long walks incorporating litter picking. All of these tasks provide physical exercise for the client gardeners and helps them understand why conserving a woodland is important:
Among other important tasks is maintaining the walkways by removing weeds under the ‘historic concrete rights act’, repairing potholes with gravel, and in the winter dedicating time to young oak management (but they have to be aware not to disrupt the lovely little door mice!).
I get to do a lot of activities here at The Vyne with Thrive, it’s really good. I love coming here.Sam, client gardener
This all sounds like very tiring work, and it is! But the clients have come to really take ownership of the conservation project. Aggie (horticultural therapist), enjoys coming to the end of the day and listening to clients saying out loud ‘Bye Woodland’ as they pack up to leave. The Vyne has become a place where they feel they belong; Aggie describes everyone as being completely relaxed and always motivated when there. They feel pride in the hard work they do, the progress they get to see, and they love the responsibility they have for all the life in the woodlands, both plant and animal.
When asked what’s your favourite part about your work at The Vyne, Dean responded “Clearing the ditches! I help stop the woodlands flooding! I like having a job to do, to keep busy, it makes me happy.”
However, the point of The Vyne is not all about physical work though! Just being outdoors can be so beneficial to the client gardeners; spending more time outdoors is linked to higher levels of concentration, creativity, and improved mental clarity. One activity which has become extremely popular among the group is tree hugging! It has been said that hugging a tree can increase levels of the hormone oxytocin. When hugging a tree, the hormones serotonin and dopamine make you feel calmer and happier.
We think client gardener Mark is the perfect advocate for this; Mark can worry a lot sometimes, leading to him feeling a bit overwhelmed, but when we took time to ‘tree hug’ he said “my nerves are calmed” with a big smile on his face!
Another advantage of visiting The Vyne is the opportunity to spot different types of wildlife throughout the seasons, just a few weeks ago the group saw 7 Roe deer grazing in the woods; horticultural therapist Aggie describes the moment they spotted them as everyone’s faces ‘lighting up’.
The group also takes time to spot and listen to the different types of birds which fill all corners of the woodlands. They particularly enjoy doing this in the Spring and Summer when they sit down to rest and have a picnic altogether; a favourite activity among staff, volunteers and clients – the clients sometimes even have a little nap after a morning of hard work!
Aggie expresses that taking time to sit down for lunch as a group allows the clients to socialise and bond over their teamwork; building a foundation of friendship among everyone which might otherwise be hard to establish elsewhere. Thrive understands the importance of socialising and we work hard to facilitate friendships so they can blossom in a natural way. Regular socialisation helps with an individual’s perception of their health, loneliness and general life satisfaction. Maintaining social interaction is also vital for our physical and mental health, at any age.
“The great thing about volunteering with the conservation group and at Thrive in general, is that you really get to know everyone you’re working alongside. You get to help them reach their goals and grow.”Lynn, volunteer
A great achievement which the client gardeners are really proud of is winning first prize for “Group project work” at Thrive’s annual Flower Show in 2019. They made a “Collage of Nature” during their picnic times at The Vyne, a real sense of teamwork and joint effort went into the entry and it shows how much you can accomplish by working together, an important message that is implemented throughout all work the conservation group undertakes at The Vyne.
It’s so clear that visiting The Vyne has an abundance of important benefits for the clients. Physical exercise, mental wellbeing and socialisation can truly make a real positive difference in the lives of people. Even though the group express that they love attending The Vyne no matter the weather or season, they are all in agreement that seeing the Woodlands covered in a ‘carpet of bluebells’ in Springtime is a wonderful sight which they’re all looking forward to seeing again!
I wish time would go slower at The Vyne; I just love it so much here.Mark, client gardener