Branching Out brings people back to nature, helping them tackle anxiety, depression, isolation, and other long-term conditions. In the serene environment of the woods, individuals come together to support one another. Whether it’s cooking food on a campfire, building a shelter, walking, practicing tai-chi, or engaging in mindful activities: woodwork, crafts, art, the natural landscape enhances quality of life, encourages social connection, and fosters peer support.

Highlights from the past 10 years

  • Funding Success: Over £500,000 secured from 11 different funders for 16 distinct projects.
  • Strong Collaborations: Partnered with 16 direct delivery partners across 10 locations.
  • Empowering Leaders: Trained 32 new Branching Out Leaders and facilitated additional accredited qualifications, such as Outdoor First Aid, Scottish Mental Health First Aid, Campfire/Outdoor Food Safety and Hygiene, Wellness Recovery Action Plan training, and Forest Bathing Guide training.
  • Extensive Programmes: Ran 53 outdoor activity programmes in Argyll & Bute (29 Branching Out and 24 Moving On), totaling 573 sessions.
  • Impactful Participation: 363 individuals were referred, with 270 people completing the programmes and achieving an average wellbeing score increase of 8.23 points.
  • Adaptability During COVID-19: Engaged 81 participants during lockdown by adapting the project to bring nature connections to their homes.

Peoples hands doing crafts in a circle around a fire

New developments

Following our successful ACT in the Woods sessions at Blarbuie in 2023, we have secured further funding from Argyll and Bute Third Sector Interface, thanks to the Scottish Government's Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund. This fund focuses on prevention and early intervention, aiming to support community groups in tackling mental health inequalities, social isolation, loneliness, suicide prevention, and poverty. In 2024 we’re excited to be working in Bute & Cowal once more, collaborating with Bute Community Forest, Benmore Botanic Garden, and Interloch Community Transport.

peoples hands holding twine      woodland craft with reeds

Shared experiences

A Fresh Start in Nature

"Being in that environment, surrounded by nature, was a fantastic launch to new beginnings. Out in the hills, you don’t have to be the person people expect you to be. It’s a time to be who you want to be, with no one to contradict or reproach you. It’s almost like Mother Nature can reset or mend a broken heart if you let it. Now, even in my own garden or wandering in the hills, I will always be Branching Out."

Discovering Confidence Outdoors

"We live in this beautiful place but hadn’t thought to be involved outdoors. We lacked confidence, and logistics were a huge barrier. The staff sincerely care about each individual's wellbeing. Branching Out has given us the confidence to embrace the outdoors."

Finding peace in the woods

"Entering the woods, the noise and light levels change. There’s an open ceiling of branches and leaves, no hard noises underfoot or echoes from the road. The air is refreshing, you hear birdsong or rain on the leaves, and feel a sense of silence. Your attention shifts to your surroundings, making you present in the moment. Branching Out has been one of the best experiences I’ve had in the last decade. I would go every day if possible."

A weekly highlight

"Do you know the feeling when you go to bed desperate to fall asleep just to start your day? That’s what Branching Out is like for me. When I get there, all my problems are left on the bus, and I focus on my day. I meet people who make me feel better. By the end, you form special bonds with people who were strangers. Branching Out is what I look forward to all week. I've had lots of therapy, and this group is the best kind I've ever had."

Embracing mindfulness

"Being outside with the Branching Out project, I loved learning mindfulness, seeing the smaller details, barefoot walking, and using all our senses. There’s a big difference between being by yourself and in a group, having shared experiences and discussing them, versus being in your head all the time."

Growing through volunteering

"When I was asked to be a peer supporter and volunteer, it boosted my confidence. A chat by the fire in the woods feels natural and gives space to digest what you’re sorting out in your head."

A lifeline for my brother

"Without Branching Out, my brother would be totally isolated with no outlet for social or mental wellbeing. He quickly reverts to poor habits and low mood when Branching Out finishes. This program has been a lifeline for him."

Creating a Community

"I am thoroughly impressed with the Branching Out and Moving On Projects. They do great work in helping a diverse variety of people and creating a real sense of community within the group."

Read more about Branching Out

mug hung on branch in tree with people in background