Successful Branching Out project to launch in Dumfries and Galloway

An award-winning project, designed to improve the health and well-being of adults experiencing low mental wellbeing or mental health conditions, is to launch in Dumfries and Galloway for the first time in February.

Forestry Commission Scotland’s (FCS) Branching Out project will be delivered by social enterprise Instinctively Wild in partnership with DG Health & Wellbeing (NHS Dumfries & Galloway and Dumfries & Galloway Council) and the Stewartry Locality Health Improvement Team. 

The 12-week programme is designed to help improve people’s confidence, wellbeing and communication skills through a range of outdoor activities with each session adapted to meet the needs of each individual group. The sessions will take place in a woodland setting near Dalbeattie and will be led by experienced leaders from Instinctively Wild. Volunteers from the local area are also involved in the project, as part of the social enterprise’s volunteer programme.

Nathalie Moriarty, Forestry Commission Scotland’s Branching Out programme manager, said:
“Branching Out has proved a hugely successful programme across 11 of Scotland’s regions and we are delighted it is launching in Dumfries and Galloway.

“The programme is designed to build confidence and skills to allow people to integrate with society again. Everybody who takes part is also encouraged to get involved in other local activities to ensure they continue moving forward with their progress out with the programme itself. For many, it can be a life changing experience.” 

Participants will enjoy three hours of woodland activities a week, such as photography, tool use, bush craft skills and natural history identification, while working towards receiving the nationally recognised John Muir Award.  

Helen Johnston, Director at Instinctively Wild, said:

“We are delighted to be working with our first two groups in Dumfries and Galloway. We have a whole range of activities planned for the first Branching Out programme which will help people engage with the outdoors and provide an opportunity to build confidence and learn new skills, which will hopefully lead to new and exciting possibilities for those who attend the sessions.”

Funded directly by FCS, the success of Branching Out 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.  Claire Thirlwall,Health & Wellbeing Specialist DG Health & Wellbeing said:

"The introduction of the Dumfries and Galloway Branching Out programme is an exciting step in our commitment to improving the mental wellbeing of individuals through improving access to the natural green space in Dumfries & Galloway.

Sharon Walker – Stewartry Health and Wellbeing Team said:

‘We are pleased to be part of the first Branching Out programme to be delivered in Dumfries and Galloway.  Providing people with different tools to help them improve and maintain their own health and wellbeing is a key aspect of our work’

Forestry Commission Scotland is now working with 22 partners in 11 NHS board areas to deliver up to 50 projects per 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.