Branching Out success in the Borders

Participants of Forestry Commission Scotland’s (FCS) Branching Out programme are celebrating after successfully completing the 12-week mental health and wellbeing programme at Hells Hole in Wauchope Forest.

The group of eight attended an award ceremony on Thursday 30th August in Hells Hole, where they received certificates acknowledging their achievements. Six participants also received the John Muir Discovery award.

Delivered by Borders Forest Trust and NHS Borders, Branching Out is an FCS award-winning adult mental health project which is designed to improve people’s confidence, mental wellbeing, and communication skills through a range of outdoor activities. 

The programme reached its 10-year anniversary in May and is estimated to have helped over 2,000 people across Scotland.

Nathalie Moriarty, Forestry Commission Scotland’s Branching Out manager, said: “Branching Out is a hugely successful programme and it’s amazing to see the results it has delivered over the last 10 years. It can be life changing for those who take part, they feel more confident and have developed better communication skills to go on and enjoy other local activities which help ensure they continue to move forward on the work they have already achieved.” 

Adopting a holistic, person-centred approach promoting ‘five ways to better mental health’, Branching Out takes place in forests, woodlands and other green spaces. Participants take part in a range of activities covering key areas such as bushcraft skills, practical conservation, physical activity, creativity and environmental art, and personal development or learning.

Led by qualified Branching Out leaders, participants benefit from the project’s clear routine, structure and non-clinical setting and enjoy three hours of woodland activities a week with each session adapted to meet the needs of each individual group. 

Jane Rosegrant from Borders Forest Trust said: “Borders Forest Trust is proud and delighted to offer the Branching Out programme in the Scottish Borders. Feedback has always been that the woodland activities have a very positive impact on participants’ confidence and wellbeing. We only wish the model could be offered more widely.”

Mike Cant-Pinnons from NHS Borders added: “As a service we value the work that has been achieved through Branching Out. It has benefited many service users over the years and we would like to congratulate those individuals who have completed the project.”

Originally developed and funded by FCS, the success of the programme has enabled FCS to pass the structured model onto partner organisations and provide an outdoor training and accreditation programme for leaders, which has been endorsed by the Institute for Outdoor Learning and NHS Health Scotland.

Forestry Commission Scotland is now working with 22 partners in 10 NHS board areas delivering up to 50 projects a year.

Notes to editors

  1. Forestry Commission Scotland is part of the Scottish Government's Environment and Forestry Directorate.
  2. Tha Coimisean na Coilltearachd Alba na phàirt de Bhuidheann-Stiùiridh na h-Àrainneachd is Coilltearachd aig Riaghaltas na h-Alba agus bidh e a’ toirt seachad comhairle air poileasaidhean coilltearachd agus air riaghladh. Tha Iomairt Choilltean na h-Alba na fo-bhuidheann aig Coimisean na Coilltearachd a tha a’ ruith Oighreachd na Coille Nàiseanta as leth Ministearan na h-Alba.
  3. Media enquiries to Steve Williams, Forestry Commission Scotland press office, 0300 067 6508 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.