Health and wellbeing programme boosted across the North-east

Branching Out groups in Grampian are to benefit from a £17,000 funding grant from Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) and NHS Grampian, Directorate of Public Health, to expand the award-winning health and wellbeing programme in the North-east.

FCS’s Branching Out project, which was launched in Grampian in 2016 and has supported nearly 100 people in the area, will now cover Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen City and South Kincardine.

Supporting adults with long-term mental health problems, the pioneering 12-week project will be delivered by Earth for Life, North East OWL network and Aberdeenshire Council in partnership with NHS services and mental health charities and will see six groups undergo the successful woodland-based programme.

Nathalie Moriarty, Forestry Commission Scotland, Branching Out manager, said: “This is a significant investment into delivering Branching Out in the Grampian area. The programme is hugely successful and helps guide people onto a new path, where they start participating and integrating with society again. After many successful programmes taking place across the country, it is great to be able to expand on our delivery in the North-east.”

Designed to help build confidence, increase physical activity and achieve greater independence, each session is adapted by a Branching Out leader to meet the needs of each individual group. Participants enjoy three hours of woodland based activities once a week, including physical exercise on a variety of themed walks; conservation activities, such as habitat creation and nest box building; bushcraft; environmental art; and outdoor learning, such as tree and bird identification.

Emma Laing, an Aberdeen student who completed the programme, said: “I experienced activities I had never taken part in before. We built fires and shelters using only resources that we could find in the woodlands. Going outdoors into the woodlands was never something I would have thought to do, but now I really appreciate getting outside and enjoying the greenspace.”

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.  

With an increased focus on mental health across all aspects of our lives, Branching Out’s role may become larger over the next 10 years.

Imran Arain, Health Promoting Health Service and Public Mental Health Lead, NHS Grampian, said: “We’re looking forward to working with FCS and our Branching Out delivery partners. This new round of funding will help us continue our work in providing positive experiences for people suffering from mental health problems and re-engage them through a range of outdoor activities and learning, helping to build their confidence and skillset.” 

Forestry Commission Scotland is now working with 22 partners in nine 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.