Programme for Women in Recovery

The Hawthorn Project is a women’s recovery project based at Tortworth Forest Centre.

We invite women in recovery from substance abuse to join us for our weekly woodland sessions, to build confidence, self-esteem and wellbeing.

Throughout the programme will develop skills and confidence that will support their ongoing recovery and improve self-esteem and wellbeing. The programme is funded by The National Lottery Community Fund and is completely free to participants.

I just wanted to thank you again for today. The beautiful colours, the foraging in the undergrowth, the sausages and baked apples. But most of all thank you to you and Jill. You are both so gentle and compassionate. I was in a dreadful place when I arrived. And yawned contentedly in the car on the way home.

What you are doing with the women in the woods is truly healing.

The Project

The project is the first of its kind, run by women for women. It offers women the opportunity to step outside of their day-to-day lives and spend some time in a safe space learning new skills, creating positive social connections and a break from focusing on their addiction.

The women who take part report improvements in their physical health, their relationships with their families, their self-esteem and enjoyment of life. Some of these women return as peer mentors.

As part of the Hawthorn Project, women learn woodland skills such as fire lighting, outdoor cooking, plant, wildlife and birdsong identification, crafts and tool use. This is all taught in such a way so as to improve confidence, encourage peer support and teamwork, and of course to be enjoyable. All the activities are non-compulsory – we recognise the value of a good cup of tea and a chat! All we ask is our women come with a positive attitude and allow those who are doing activities to do so with encouragement and positivity.

Women who attend the project say that it gives them something to look forward to each week, and a reason to stay sober.

This project can dramatically change lives, creating a positive support network that will last beyond the duration of the project; women will have the support network, the tools and resources they need to continue their recovery.

When participants feel ready, we offer support to join one of the volunteering and conservation opportunities at Tortworth Forest Centre which aims to support individuals in recovery.

Why Woodlands?

Taking time out of our daily lives to switch off, relax, and focus on ourselves is important to our mental wellbeing. But so often we don’t feel that we have the skills, equipment or knowledge to step out into the wild; nor do we prioritise looking after our own needs over the competing needs of our lives, our families and relationships.

This is especially true of women who are in recovery.

We know that when we spend time together in the woodland we feel more relaxed and confident. With us, you will meet new people who are also committed to recovery and can support and help each other, and together we form good memories of our time under the trees. With support and guidance from our experienced woodland leaders, you will leave with new knowledge and confidence in your own abilities to take on new challenges.

Studies have shown that spending time in nature is good for our health, lowers our blood pressure, relaxes us and makes us happier. And the best bit is that nature is completely free.

Previous participants have told us that they leave feeling relaxed and calm; that they feel alive again, and rediscover who they were before their addiction.

This is the breathing space you need to return to your life with confidence to deal with your addiction, and to face the challenges that life brings.

The arboretum is a stunning place to be in all weather and all year round, with beauty at every turn. Wild animals, exotic trees, wildflowers, the smell of woodsmoke, and of course the gentle bleating of our woodland goats.

Sign Up

Download our Information Pack and Application Form (Word) or Application Form (pdf)

We can post you forms, let us know the address by emailing bec@thehawthornproject.org or texting 07717 201 329.

Covid-19 Update

We have a Covid-19 Policy and risk assessment for this project and have made some changes to how we run the day to make it as safe as possible, without causing unnecessary anxiety.

All participants are involved in talking through the measures and we will continue to monitor the situation and make changes as necessary. This may involve reducing numbers, or stopping entirely, but we are aiming to continue for as long as we can while remaining safe.

For a copy of the risk assessment email bec@thehawthornproject.org. 

Term Dates:

16 September to 21 October 2020 – full

4 November to 9 December 2020

Signing Up

We are recruiting individuals who identify as women to take part,  and participants can be referred from a GP, a support worker. You MUST have a referral to take part.

Participants are asked to commit to the full 6-week term as we know from experience that it takes a few sessions for women to start to take ownership of the programme and see the full benefits of being in the woods.

Participants need to be in recovery at the time of the programme. We cannot support women who are using.

Transport is provided from Portland Square at 10.30am, returning by 3.00pm.

Our team

Bec Cork – Project Manager

Bec Cork runs nature-based events in woodlands across the UK, including women’s retreats. Bec holds her Level 3 Forest School Leader qualification, Food Hygiene Certificates and Outdoor First Aid; she is an ethnobotanist and an experienced teacher of woodland crafts and activities.

As well as her events, Bec Cork manages the woodland at Tortworth. She founded the Tortworth Forest Centre in 2014 with two aims; to restore the once majestic arboretum, and to open it up to people who will benefit from a connection to nature.

The arboretum is a 20-acre woodland full of native and exotic trees, some hundreds of years old, and it is being restored sustainably with the support of hundreds of volunteers, from all different walks of life. Bec has worked with a number of different groups at Tortworth from adults with addiction, families, youth groups and forest school groups.

Syreeta Muirhead

Syreeta is a Design teacher, forest school leader and general outdoor enthusiast. Having spent 30 years hiking, mountain biking, climbing, surfing and scuba diving, she decided to swap class rooms for grass and trees, nature’s true learning environment. Syreeta has taught textiles, food, architecture and engineering for 16 years. She is a Jacqueline of all trades and can literally make you anything.

Syreeta Muirhead – Forest School Leader