Woodlands For Health


Research has shown that engagement with nature through outdoor activities can have a significant positive impact on people’s mental health and well-being.

The concept of using woodlands in other European countries particularly in Scotland has grown rapidly over the last twenty years as a form of Eco Therapy. Research has shown that exposure to the natural environment reduces stress and anxiety. When people are in natural surroundings, physical activity releases endorphins which in turn help fight depression.

Woodlands For Health is an innovative development initiated in 2012 by Charlie Burke Recreation Officer at Coillte (The Irish Forestry Board). A Project Plan was prepared based on consultation with staff from the Scottish Forestry Commissions multi award winning Branching Out project.

The project is a programme prescribed by medical professionals of forest based activities for mental health patients and monitors there progress over set periods.

The pilot programme based in Wicklow was developed by Coillte in partnership with the HSE/Wicklow Mental Health Services, Wicklow Mental Health Association, Mental Health Ireland and Wicklow Sports Partnership.

The programme has provided weekly walks, nature talks for more than 140 service users who are referred to the programme by Ita Kelly (HSE – Community Mental-Health Nurse) from the East Wicklow area over the past 4 years.

Participants travel by bus to Coillte Forest Trails in East Wicklow, the weekly walks are led by Charlie Burke (Coillte), Ita Kelly (HSE) and project volunteers.

Last year the project was evaluated by the HSE and University College Dublin, which found that participants improved their mood by 75 per cent, sleep quality by 66 per cent; in addition, their thoughts of suicide declined by 82 per cent.

One of the most positive outcomes was the development of the peer lead Well-A-Head Social Club who meet twice a week to enjoy walking groups and outdoor activities in Wicklow to continue to benefit their mental and physical health.

For more information about Woodlands For Health contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Woodlands For Health Report Cover

Woodlands For Health Report Cover

Woodlands For Health - Charlie Burke and Ita Kelly

Woodlands For Health - Charlie Burke and Ita Kelly

Woodlands For Health Walkers On Trail

Woodlands For Health Walkers On Trail

woodlands for health download  Woodlands For Health Summary Report  pdf

the irish times  Why a woodland walk is good for your head  external link

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