Exploring nature for mental health and wellbeing

Author: Amy Coates

This week (13th – 19th May 2024) is Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme is ‘Moving more for mental health’. Our Communications and Marketing Officer took some time to reflect on our recent Staff Wellness Day, where we set aside some time to prioritise our mental wellbeing by taking a walk around Scotswood Garden.  

A photo image of members of the VONNE team taking a walk around the woodland at Scotswood Garden

Like many organisations in the VCSE sector, work at VONNE often moves at a fast pace, and with the best will in the world there isn’t always time to prioritise wellbeing. Over the last 6 months, we’ve worked through a period of transition with our CEO, Carol Botten, making the difficult decision to resign, and with us moving offices due to the sale of Mea House.  

It’s a lot for staff to deal with on top of busy workloads, and as an organisation, VONNE aims to support staff wellbeing as much as possible.  

So, we decided to focus on wellbeing by taking some time out to enjoy nature as a staff team. Our Bronze Membership+ members, Scotswood Garden were kind enough to host us for the morning in their beautiful building and woodland.  

A photo image of the VONNE staff sitting around a table taking part in a poetry session

We started the day by talking about the wellbeing policies and practices that VONNE has in place, from workplace wellbeing plans to personal development budgets. We then took part in a poetry workshop led by our very own, incredibly talented Amy Langdown – in taking time to talk through our frustrations, beliefs and hopes for the future we created our own VONNE-ifesto which you can read here! 

Finally, it was time to get out into nature, and we headed into the woodland space of the garden and took part in a mindfulness and movement session. We then wandered into the woods to create our own nature wheels by foraging for leaves and flowers. It was great to take some time to walk, talk and focus on our own connection with the nature around us.  

A photo image of the VONNE team, posing for the camera in Scotswood Garden, with the decorative wreaths they had made

Spending a morning together as a team, but taking the focus away from work, was a great way for us to connect with each other. The VONNE team has grown rapidly over the last few years and it’s very rare that we’re all in the same place at the same time because of varied work patterns and commitments, so it always feels like a benefit to talk to people in the team that we might not see regularly. It also encourages cross-collaboration of our work streams and projects, often inspiring future conversations.  

I’d highly recommend a visit to Scotswood Garden if you’re in the west end of Newcastle, it’s a beautiful venue that runs some great workshops for their local community.