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Posted on: 19th January 2011

Access to Nature helps recovery

What a difference a year makes - Access to Nature helps recovery

New Year is all about new starts and Open Road is celebrating a new outlook for some recovering alcohol and drug abusers.

Open Road, is working with Natural England’s Access to Nature programme to help service users in the final transitional stage of their treatment.

The new initiative sees a group of Open Road’s clients regularly visiting Gravel Wood, at Tendring near Clacton to learn about woodland management and take part in hands-on activities such as coppicing and clearing streams.

The area of woodland the group are working on has not been touched since 1987, so the organisers hope their work will pay off by transforming it into an area the local community can enjoy.

Open Road Project Worker, Vicky Jones, explains: “Our New Horizons project helps our clients get their lives back together through volunteering and work experience as many will have gaps on their CV. The training they receive will help them to add a new skill to their CV. It also gets them into a routine.”

Giles Merritt, Natural England’s Access to Nature advisor, said: “All the evidence suggests that regular contact with nature is good for you. Even something as simple as a walk in the woods can have enormous benefits. We hope that this project will help Open Road’s clients to enjoy visiting the woodland, learn new skills and make new friends.’’

Vicky added: “One of the biggest challenges faced by our clients is the struggle with misconceptions. Those on the scheme say they feel isolated from the rest of society and incentives, like Access to Nature, helps us to help them integrate back into society.

“Taking part in this manual work, which has an enjoyable element to it, takes away the feeling of community service. It’s really great to see the changes in people and see them get involved and fill their day with meaningful activities.

“We also look at the woodland to reflect on what has been achieved. We remind our clients that just like their treatment, the woodland needs to be carefully nurtured to grow. The recent snowy spell has helped raise spirits as we roasted chestnuts and chopped down holly to make Christmas decorations.”


Case Study

Zena, 31, from Clacton-on-Sea

“This time last year, I wasn’t really celebrating Christmas - it was quite boring and mediocre. I had already been with Open Road for about a year and had stopped using any drugs, so was on my way, but there was no real Christmas spirit.

“This year, I am feeling more enjoyment about Christmas, and I will be spending it with friends.

“Taking part in Access to Nature has helped to build my confidence, got me out and about, and made me fit and healthier. I have turned my hand to a lot of stuff before, but I feel that I can get something out of this project: knowledge, awareness, knowing I’ve helped in some way, fun and a new lease of life.

“I would say to other people who may be interested in the project – just get out there and do it! I think you’ll discover something about yourself – what you CAN do. I think it’s a healthy thing to do and it’s different.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for some people – to get some experience and direction. Even if you don’t find work in this field, it makes you more aware of the opportunities out there. Even if all I get out of Access to Nature is enjoyment, it has opened my eyes to other possibilities”

More information about Access to Nature.