Hidden in the East Ayrshire woodland there is a group of people installing unique and innovative projects under the trees to help aid recovery.

The East Ayrshire Woodlands Project is a self-funded partnership initiative that brings together communities and landowners to enhance and expand woodlands in order to provide a range of social, economic and environmental benefits.

For almost a year now, off and on owing to COVID-19 restrictions they’ve been busy constructing a log cabin that will act as a mental health retreat.

The project has been delivering woodland based therapy and mental health recovery sessions since 2012 to a wide range of groups throughout Ayrshire, though most centred around the Cumnock area.

All their sessions are designed to be informal and fun to build people’s recovery, confidence, self esteem and social interaction. They have supported approximately 200 people in recovery groups.

Their activities focus on traditional skills and crafts, use of hand tools, gentle bushcraft skills and raising awareness of the nature around us, improving people’s knowledge of species, traditional uses of specific trees or plants and the many myths, legends and folklore of species that they find.

Cumnock Chronicle: A small fire is kept going throughout the recovery sessions.A small fire is kept going throughout the recovery sessions.

Currently they deliver sessions in the grounds around Boswell’s Coach House Estate.

Woodland Officer Mark Davies commented: “We are lucky to have the wonderful support of the Boswell Family to run woodland based support and recovery projects within their beautiful estate. It is the perfect spot to improve people’s wellbeing and mental health.

“The mental health recovery sessions is only part of what East Ayrshire Woodlands deliver, we delivered training courses for young unemployed people since our inception in 1997, site management and improvement works, working with local communities and landowners to develop and improve native community woodlands as well as winter willow structure and supply work.

“One of our current projects includes the construction of a roundwood cabin as a resource for our recovery work once we can welcome groups again. Other staff have also been working hard to improve the paths and steps around Woodroad Park, which will be a significant improvement.”

As well as the building of the cabin, the group have also been making a therapeutic relaxation album called ‘Soundscapes’ which is designed for personal or group support therapy use. It will be available for free download once it is complete.

Whilst the world is in turmoil as the Coronavirus still wreaks its havoc, the East Ayrshire Woodlands project continue their work peacefully unabated.

Cumnock Chronicle: The group gather around an ancient yew tree.The group gather around an ancient yew tree.