Rob is an unsung hero. Starting with KindleWoods 3 years ago when he was going through debilitating depression, he took part in two 6 week woodland wellbeing programmes before becoming a volunteer with KindleWoods.
After a year supporting others on the programmes, attending training in bushcraft and hedge-laying, obtaining his chainsaw license, outdoor first aid certificate and KindleWoods own in house training, we were lucky enough to employ rob as an assistant woodland wellbeing practitioner.
Having a talent for craft, he went on to travel down to Ben Law’s prickly nut wood, driving 6 hours with a 16ft trailer, spending 4 days in the woods helping to build a roundwood timber frame structure with another of our inspiring volunteers, before driving the whole structure back up north again!
Rob's experience, in his own words:
“I’d been going to a group in the back of a café in Selby, and it was really quite depressing… drab and dreary. There were a lot of people who just went to moan. The mindfulness we did wasn’t really doing anything for me, I was only going just to get me out of the house… I wasn’t functioning back then, I wasn’t eating, or getting out of bed. Mind suggested the KindleWoods session, so I went along, and the first day I was there, it was like, ‘hang on, this is better, this makes sense, this will work’.
Being in the woods is great anyway – just being out in nature is just good for your soul. The mindfulness was difficult to do in a meeting room; I was struggling to connect with the moment before, you know – when the moment is drab and dreary, compared to being in the moment when the sunlight is dappling through the trees, and a fire roaring in front of you. It’s like you actually want to be in that moment. And then the practical stuff… it was like, wow I could do something… which was positive on a whole load of different levels.
After being at two of the programmes I become a volunteer. I was making things which someone else found useful – and you realise, I’m not absolutely useless, here’s something I can do, which is useful. At home it’d be like - I’ll get up, and I’ll do that. You start looking for stuff to do, and you start functioning again. It gives you purpose. And then the next level up after that, was reinforcing your sense of worth, by being trusted to do stuff, and support others to do it, and you see their sense of achievement. Getting someone else to go ‘wow, I can do this, I’ve never been able to do it! Wow, we got him sorted there – and he already had quite a bit of skill.’ It was another level up. You don’t notice it at the time, but you start to see yourself differently.
Doing the Great Yorkshire Show, helping someone else achieve something in bushcraft, who is already skilled at it, that feels really good. The people who make the effort to go and attend a KindleWoods thing are trying to make things better. Not everyone is who is going to some other course – people just want to moan, and moan about the same things, with no attempt to improve things. At KindleWoods you are already amongst people who are trying to do something positive. Your attention as well, it’s diverted away from that stuff. It’s a much more positive space. The good thing about it, is it’s like asking people to do things for themselves incidentally – rather than ‘this is your medication’, ‘this is your treatment’. It’s ‘let’s just do this, let’s crack on together.’ It’s not a doctor-patient relationship, it’s ‘right – we’re going to do this today, and you might find it amazing, but it’s okay if you don’t.’
I’m on a crusade now to talk about mental health. It’s still a taboo subject you can’t talk about. KindleWoods has helped because it’s being around people who have been through similar issues, being able to talk and discuss things openly. Not everyone wants to talk. It’s conversations and connections, having understanding, seeing how different people deal with things, in a non-threatening reassuring environment.”
Feeling inspired by Rob's story? Read more about Woodland Wellbeing sessions and sign up to try one here.