The Green Light Trust uses  the John Muir award to benefit people as well as nature

 “I do not want it to end.   I am physically stronger. Connecting with nature and people in a safe space has helped me broaden my boundaries and taught me that everyone has something to offer and something to strive for, even me.”  This is a quote from Sally who was a participant on the Women’s Woodland Wellbeing programme held by Green Light Trust in Frithy Wood, Suffolk. 

 The Green Light Trust works with each individual participant to improve their well being 

This is what the Green Light Trust is all about.  Helping participants to rebuild their confidence step by step.  These steps include acceptance by others and development of self-belief and self-worth. By using meaningful work such as conservation of natural woodlands participants benefit from the healing power of nature. The woods and nature provide the safe space which, for a few hours each week, give these women the time to let their minds be freer, banish negative thoughts and leave trauma behind.   

As a tangible recognition of achievement,the John Muir award is an excellent way of helping our participants to realise how far they have come as individuals on their recovery journey from substance misuse or the trauma of abuse. The participants have worked towards the preservation of natural woodlands, but they have always worked on themselves and been on what at times is a painful and difficult road as they improve their wellbeing and mental health.


Each participant’s story is different.  Some are faced with the pressures of looking after elderly and ill parents while balancing the responsibilities of teenagers.   The only time away, the only time to be, is in the woods – something to look forward to every week. “A little bit of space to look after me and my wellbeing before returning to the unrelenting pressures of daily life.” Said Pippa. 

 Wellbeing and good mental health should not be neglected

Whilst Ann, a professional in the mental health arena had been so busy helping others with their well being and had referred others onto Green Light courses she had neglected her own trauma.  Abused as a young woman, she had left it and not come to terms with the abuse.  Over time it had gnawed away inside. Ann through The Green Light Trust has been able to gain valuable self-confidence week by week and is now making the first steps in managing the trauma, so its impacts are not so over whelming.   

For Bryony, who has been leading and running the John Muir programmes for The Green Light Trust at Frithy wood, it has been amazing to watch the participants grow through the programme.  “It is difficult to prioritise the benefits of a John Muir award and what it means to our participants; there are so many elements which make it valuable.   We all know that our natural landscape is under increasing pressure and that we must preserve it for future generations.  For me, though, it was watching those participants - who have been through so much - just growing and healing week by week.  Step by step the green of Frithy wood provided them with a safe space, free from stress and anxiety. They could put the trauma behind them and reconnect with nature.”

The evidence is overwhelming: Nature heals

The anecdotal feedback from GLT participants is incredible.  It is important however, to support that with empirical data.  85% of those participants who complete a Green Light Trust course continue to engage and develop, coming back and joining us on another course, whilst others feel enabled to go out and continue their education or to get employment.  Research conducted by Professor Jules Pretty, University of Essex, on the impact of the Green Light Trust’s programmes showed that the contribution to the public purse through savings in the statutory services was on average £14,000 per person per year.  This amounted to a 28% reduction in visits to GPs and a 24% fall in attendance at A & E departments, with fewer interventions by the police and probation services.  This is all achieved at a cost of £473 per person pa.   The programmes (as measured on Rosenberg’s self-esteem scale) showed an improvement of 1.4 on the 10-point scale. This is a huge improvement when one considers that significant life events, such as a marriage, the birth of a child, divorce, or unemployment, have an impact of +/- 0.6.  

Nature delivers.  Being out in the woods makes us feel better: it is restorative for the individual, but it benefits wider society and the natural environment too.

 On balance it is the individuals who we support that sum it up best in their own words.   Jessie’s story makes it clear why the women’s woodland wellbeing course is effective, “I have made friends.  Connected with both people and nature and realised that other people do enjoy having me around.  I have been accepted for being me.”