Inaugural wilderness weekend success

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An innovative new outdoors project that introduces disabled people to woodlands and green space has taken its first six participants to Arran to take part in an inaugural ‘Wilderness Weekend’.

This project is to encourage more people with disabilities to access woodlands and green space and is part of Forestry Commission Scotland’s wider Central Scotland engagement strategy.

Delivered in partnership by Forestry Commission Scotland and The National Trust for Scotland they have worked with Scottish adventuress Julie McElroy to develop the Wilderness Weekend, which saw the group taking part in a range of outdoor activities.

Participants, aged between 20-74 years old, got involved in a series of pursuits including arts and crafts and woodland walks. They also explored how people lived on and off the land and learned how to light fires from sparks, gather food and build a shelter.

Hugh McNish from Forestry Commission Scotland said:

“As an organisation we believe in encouraging everyone to access woodlands and experience the outdoors. 

“Current evidence shows that disabled people do not access the outdoors as frequently as able-bodied people. We want to tackle this and encourage more people with disabilities to access their local woodlands.

“By running unique weekends such as this, we are actively helping to remove any obstacles for disabled people to enjoy the outdoors and benefit from the experience too.”

A keen adventurer, Julie was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was a child and is eager to help more people with disabilities experience the advantages of the outdoors.

She added: 

“I have always had a love of the outdoors and I was really passionate about getting this project off the ground. It has been a real challenge, but finally being able to get participants across to Arran to take part is a great feeling.

“This course is designed to enhance the confidence of the participants and also increase their personal development, by allowing them the chance to take part in a series of tasks and adventures that they haven’t before.”

 Notes to news editors

1. Forestry Commission Scotland works as the Scottish Government's forestry directorate

2. The National Trust for Scotland is one of Scotland’s leading conservation charities, which relies on the financial support of its members to fund its important work of caring for the natural and cultural heritage of Scotland for everyone to enjoy. The Trust cares for a range of sites on Arran, including Brodick Castle and Country Park and Goatfell.

3.  Media enquiries to Steve Williams, Forestry Commission Scotland press office 0131 314 6508.