Osprey Outdoors – belonging in nature
Founded in 2008 in Weston-Super-Mare, Osprey Outdoors brings people together in nature to create healthier and happier lifestyles and communities.
A not-for-profit community interest company, Osprey provides inspiring, purposeful and inclusive outdoor pursuits that positively impact on wellbeing, from developing new skills to building confidence and motivation, while encouraging social cohesion. It supports individuals who find it hard to leave the urban environment, whether due to lack of transport or finances, low self-esteem, or through not knowing where to go or how to get there. Clients include children and young people, vulnerable adults dealing with mental health issues or long-term unemployment, isolated and retired people and those recovering from alcohol or drug addiction.
“I took early retirement through stress and found myself sinking with no purpose. The people here are fabulous and I feel like I’m getting back to being me when I am here.”
The pandemic left a huge proportion of Osprey’s members isolated and unable to benefit from the charity’s activities. Many of them generally exhibit low confidence and a lack of fitness due to long periods of hospitalisation or long-term care, while others recognise they find it difficult to meet new people or to integrate into society. All, however, share a desire to engage in the natural world, whether that be to learn outdoor skills, eat better and live healthier, or be part of a collective endeavour.
As the lockdowns eased, Osprey restarted its small and one-to-one support groups, encouraging individuals and households to re-engage with the outdoors close to their homes, through local walks, cycling, gardening and conservation projects. These activities, some of which were developed by the participants themselves, helped to counteract the sense of isolation caused by the pandemic, providing an opportunity to reflect on their lives and their wellbeing.
“I found community and self-worth here, and I was treated as a person when my life situation was awful. I cannot express my gratitude for everyone at Osprey, you guys literally gave me a totally new start. Gardening gives me space and a place to work on my own mental health where I feel safe. It provides me with a lot of wellbeing because I am aware I’m doing something good in my community.”
In June 2021 Osprey Outdoors applied to SMV for funding to run its ‘Isolation Recovery Project’, an eight-week programme of activities for vulnerable adults. The programme focused on improving confidence and building connections, through horticulture and conservation, exploring the landscape and developing woodland skills.
SMV was happy to support Osprey with funding of £5,000, which allowed the charity to deliver 24 activity days, at which 250 people attended, with a core group of over 40 regular participants.
Each day provided an experience that challenged the participants, setting small achievable tasks at their own pace and with support from trained and qualified group leaders. The days included developing bushcraft skills, such as building shelters and foraging; learning to map read during countryside walks; and protecting the natural landscape and wildlife, via building fences and clearing overgrown spaces.
As part of the project, Osprey welcomed 150 people to a Gardens Open Day in September 2021, to take part in maintaining the community allotment, polytunnel and orchard. The attendees also sampled some of the allotment’s homegrown produce that was cooked in a clay oven which had recently been built during one of the activity sessions.
“Building the planters in the polytunnel was very hands on. We were working as a team, producing something to be used, providing veg that people could take home and eat.”
Many attendees cited Osprey’s activity days as an important factor in supporting and improving their mental health, building their confidence and enabling them to live a healthier lifestyle. Participants also emphasised that the group-based activities gave them a sense of belonging and achievement, while others felt that the project encouraged them to expand their interests to do more outdoor activities. Some have also become involved in other volunteering groups and undertaken horticultural courses.