Phoenix Futures and the John Muir Award

Celebrating seven years of caring for people and wild places around Britain

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Spring 2017 saw the Trust celebrating its seven-year partnership with Phoenix Futures - a widely respected drug and alcohol rehabilitation charity - through special events in England and Scotland.

Phoenix Futures' pioneering ‘Recovery through Nature (RtN)’ programme provides opportunities for practical conservation work as an aid to recovery from addictions. In 2016, over 160 John Muir Awards were achieved by Phoenix Futures participants. The two recent springtime celebrations represented a meaningful connection for participants, between the wild places that they have worked hard to enhance and protect and the benefits of engaging with nature on their own health and wellbeing.

Barnsley group celebrates at Humberhead

Over the past six years the Barnsley RtN group has achieved over 200 John Muir Discovery Awards, over 50 Explorer Awards and two Conserver Awards.

To celebrate, participants and staff gathered at the Humberhead Peatlands National Nature Reserve where they have built visitor structures to enable others to enjoy its special environments and wildlife, creating opportunities for site staff to deliver more freshwater-focused education sessions.

Guests at the Humberhead celebrations included past and present participants, staff and supporters along with representatives from other partners who have collaborated with RtN, including Natural England, The National Trust, The Forestry Commission, The Conservation Volunteers and Community Science.

2017 Phoenix in Barnsley 2

Adrian Moran, RtN Leader, Barnsley Phoenix Futures (pictured here) said: “Using the John Muir Award has enhanced our existing programme by adding even more value, purpose and structure to the already, successful therapeutic intervention. Today was made even more special when The John Muir Trust presented me with my Conserver Award… It’s an achievement that I hold dear and that consists of a journey that I feel privileged and proud to have undertaken.”

Lisa, who received her John Muir Award certificate as part of the Barnsley celebration, said: “It’s been a really good eye opener to be able to come out to a wild environment and take my mind off the hustle and bustle of town and city life. I’ve suffered depression and being outside is like an antidote for me. It’s like my medicine.”

Scotland group celebrates at Glenlude

The Glenlude celebration in mid-April saw Phoenix Futures’ staff, students and service users expand the now almost five-year-old Phoenix Forest by planting 250 downy birch and alder trees. This brings the total to over 1000 trees, with each tree representing an individual who had successfully completed a Phoenix Futures programme in Scotland.

The event was attended by Rachael Hamilton MSP, along with representatives from the John Muir Trust, North Lanarkshire Council and South Lanarkshire Council.

Hala Zaluczkowska, RtN Lead for Fife, explained the special connection participants have with Glenlude: “It’s good for people to get outdoors and try new things. For our service users, coming here gives them the opportunity to give something back on a different scale, to see how they contribute to the bigger picture. It builds confidence. Visiting Glenlude also gets them out for the whole day; they enjoy the journey as well as the place itself.

One of the RtN participants at Glenlude said: “I like the sense of quiet, of isolation here. You can’t hear the traffic and you just get to be here with the view, with the cabin, with the trees. It’s a totally different experience from being at home.”

2017 Phoenix Forest at Glenlude

The John Muir Award is supported by Scottish Natural Heritage in Scotland and the Heritage Lottery Fund in England. The Trust’s woodland regeneration, volunteering and engagement work at Glenlude in 2016-17 is supported by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, via a generous grant from the Postcode Local Trust.  We gratefully acknowledge this support.

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