A day in the woods for Somerset’s Shadow Participant Board!

We arrived to the smell of a crackling campfire, the sound of people chatting and birds tweeting, and with a sense of anticipation about what Young Wood had in store for us. Our recent Shadow Participant Board was held in Taunton at Neroche Woodlanders, and it didn’t disappoint.

As we all sat around the fire (drinking tea and eating biscuits may I add), we got to know each other a little better, and learned how to use the compost loo (better than it sounds…).

Once we were hydrated and prepped, we set off for a walk through the woods. It was a beautiful spring morning, and so the walk gave the participants a chance to catch up with each other as well as learn and share their wildlife knowledge.

We were led by the Director, Wellbeing and Ecotherapy lead – Jenny – who taught us all sorts of interesting funky plant names (my favourite was Dog’s Mercury).

With a basket full of pretty and colourful flowers, we headed back to camp to get arty with them. These participant boards are important not only because it gives the participants a valuable day learning new things and catching up with each other, but also because we get to ask for feedback from them about how they feel the project is running and what we could do better. This means that the project is built around the people that take part and is always evolving to meet their needs.

Chris, a participant currently on the project explained the trip to Neroche Woods as “the best experience there is, being outdoors is the best medicine”.

“I’ve got a purpose now” was a lovely quote we received from another participant referring to how they feel about life now that they’ve been on the project. Another described it as “rebuilding the person”, describing how her confidence and skills have improved.

“I think it would be good to get employers to these sorts of events, so they can see who we really are instead of seeing us in a nerve racking interview environment. We just need them to see that spark”. A positive idea from a participant, explaining how he feels that he just needs to be given a chance.

As a group we brainstormed phrases to describe the project: “Find yourself”, “Find your path”, “Start a new chapter” “Kick start”. All incredibly positive messages to pass on to anyone considering signing on, and even more powerful that those words came from the participants themselves.

“Find who you are” – says it all.