The Woodland Trust and Phoenix Futures will come together for their annual tree planting ceremony in Heartwood Forest near St Albans on Friday 26 February. Each tree planted recognises one of the hundreds of people who have successfully completed structured treatment with Phoenix Futures over the last 12 months.
The newly accessible site at Heartwood Forest is open to everyone and the project aims to inspire enjoyment of the great outdoors. With help from the dedicated volunteers, the regeneration of the forest has gone a long way to maximise the diversity of wildlife and promote the history and significance of the site.
Phoenix Futures and Woodland Trust’s partnership offers recovering users the opportunity to take part in conservation therapy through the Recovery through Nature programme, which supports outdoor projects across England and Scotland. Last year’s event saw 100 Phoenix Futures staff, volunteers and supporters coming together to plant a total of 2,309 trees.
Since the inception of the initiative, the annual events have seen almost 8,000 saplings planted to celebrate each individual successfully achieving abstinence. This year will see 1,273 trees planted in celebration.
Engaging in conservation activities enables individuals to develop new skills and positive relationships, experience life away from drink and drugs and ultimately achieve long term recovery. Local communities also benefit, with Phoenix’s service users contributing an average of 66 hours of volunteering per person, improving outside spaces and making our communities better places to live.
Recovery through Nature participants complete an accredited Gateway Level 2 course in Practical Conservation Skills and Preparation for Work; those who take part report improved mental and physical health, increased self-esteem and confidence and an enhanced belief in their ability to change. The impact is evidenced by Phoenix Futures’ statistical data which indicates an increased treatment completion rate from 46% to 77%.
Jon Hall, Commissioning and Development Manager at Phoenix Futures, said: “This is a very special partnership for us and a fantastic way of celebrating each service user who successfully completes one of our programmes either drug or alcohol free. It's a great day out for our staff and service users from various services to meet and do something positive together for the environment...something tangible that will be there for hundreds of years as the forest grows to maturity.”
Woodland Trust site manager Louise Neicho, added: “Heartwood Forest is already a huge asset to the local community, as well as being a destination for people to visit. Working with bodies like Phoenix Futures also enables others to benefit from being in the outdoors and we’re delighted to continue this partnership.”
For more information visit www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/heartwood
To find out more about Recovery through Nature, read more here.