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On Friday 11th November, myself and my colleagues Sean, Claire, and Kate had the pleasure of joining Rowan at their forest school, located just outside Cambridge.

Rowan is a vibrant, independent, registered charity providing an arts centre and forest school for adults with learning disabilities. Established in 1984 they offer a safe, creative, and enriching environment where the arts are used as a tool to bring people together and tackle social exclusion. They develop the skills and potential of their students while improving their happiness, health, and wellbeing.

Our day started with a tour around this remarkable arboretum, complete with a magnificent treehouse, beautiful meadow, and the sociable kitchen cum dining area, with a campfire to all gather around.

As more students started to arrive, we all gathered for story time (which was definitely on a par with Jackanory) and then it was down to work! Half of the group was tasked with dismantling the biggest shed I’d ever seen, and the rest of us went to plant some saplings.

The saplings, kindly donated by the Woodland Trust, were planted to help build up a hedgerow. Having never planted a tree before, I thoroughly enjoyed planting twenty or so of these, and it was brilliant to see so many of the students getting stuck in and lending a hand.

After a lot of digging, and with the saplings all planted, we regrouped around the campfire for a well-deserved lunch. This was followed by a superb quiz run by Ashley, one of the students, and then a Christmas-themed game of Duck, Duck, Goose. Sadly, I was a sprout and did lose my place.

It was then back to work to finish dismantling the shed, and we all agreed that many hands do indeed make light work. Some of the students helped with this, whilst others stayed around the campfire to work on their arts and crafts, which included drawing and making twig stars ready for their Christmas Fayre on the 7th December.

We finished the day back around the campfire to reflect and share our experiences of a great day. In my capacity as a mental health first aider, it was also really refreshing to remind myself how being outdoors and away from a screen really does help clear your mind, allow you to reconnect with nature, and just enjoy something entirely different to a ‘typical’ working day.

I found it inspiring, energising, and hugely rewarding. I met some fantastic people, both students and volunteers, and would highly recommend volunteering at Rowan. A big thank you to everyone at Rowan for inviting us to spend the day with you all. I know I’ll definitely be going back!