Branching Out

Branching Out

Branching Out is a programme of therapeutic activities in woodlands, pioneered by the Forestry Commission Scotland, working with mental health patients referred by medical practitioners, using interaction with woodlands to improve mental health and well-being.

Following the success of a pilot programme carried out in the West of Scotland, which achieved demonstrable improvements to mental health amongst participants, the Forestry Commission Scotland is working in partnership with ELGT to launch Branching Out in the Lothians. ELGT staff will work with referred patients, delivering activities in woodlands, including green exercise, environmental arts and crafts, conservation activities and woodland guided walks to explore local community woodlands and learn about native animals and birds.

Forestry Commission Scotland Branching Out Programme

The programme is designed to work with individuals, to help improve factors such as self esteem and confidence, and the pilot programme has achieved a 75% retention rate amongst referred patients.

If you would like to find out more about the programme, please contact Esperanza on 0131 445 4025 or


Ballenden House

This year has seen a new iteration of our NHS and Forestry Commission funded, award-winning Branching Out programme. We are working with Ballenden House mental health centre in Southside, delivering diverse and exciting outdoor activities at Well’s o’ Wearie site in Holyrood Park.  Highlights so far have included making beautiful willow platters, sharing poems, learning about the local tree species and drinking lots and lots of tea prepared in our Kellie Kettle!


Cambridge Street House

Our successful Branching Out programme started up again thanks to funding from the Forestry Commission and NHS Lothian. We worked with vulnerable adult participants from Cambridge Street House. The programme was run at Carberry Woods in East Lothian and includes tree I.D., bushcraft, conservation, environmental art, green exercise and relaxation activities.

The programme ran for 12 weeks where the participants gained positive proven health benefits through a regular experience of being in a woodland setting. It enabled the participants to learn new transferable skills and develop a sense of the environment and its importance for well being. At the end of the course they received the John Muir Award.

"Branching Out has helped me in ways I never thought possible. Spending time outdoors, exploring, thinking and feeling in touch with nature, has made me feel different about life." Branching Out participant

Funded by: Forestry Commission Scotland


  • 17 people completed registration forms
  • 10 people presented with John Muir Discovery Awards
  • 7 support workers engaged
  • 24 Branching Out sessions delivered
  • 6 bird boxes built


  • Mental health of participants improved through involvement in woodland activities
  • Wellbeing and self-esteem improved through guided and group-based activities
  • Physical health promoted through gentle outdoor exercise
  • Involvement in similar outdoor activities promoted.
  • Access to the outdoors for adults with mental health issues increased.
  • Knowledge of woodland areas increased
  • Woodland-based knowledge and conservation skills developed
  • Confidence in using woodland areas improved
  • Importance and understanding of conservation of woodland areas promoted