A UK wide charity based in Shropshire which supports people across the UK has secured £35,000 funding towards its ongoing programme of helping people make the transition from military to civilian life.

Small Woods Association, based at the Green Wood Centre in Coalbrookdale, has been awarded the grant from the Armed Forces Covenant Fund and the money will be used to help the charity’s work in engaging with veterans who are looking to build a new future after serving their country.

The first project will be run at the charity headquarters in Coalbrookdale and it is then hoped similar programmes could be delivered for veterans in other areas.

Small Woods runs a wide range of sustainable woodland management and social forestry projects, courses and events across the country. They include the hugely successful Build a Bench programme – a 12-week fully-funded course aimed at people who are not currently involved in paid employment and hosted at the charity’s headquarters Green Wood Centre in Coalbrookdale.

Ian Baker, Small Woods Chief Executive Officer, said: “We are delighted to receive this grant from the Armed Forces Covenant Fund – it’s an amazing contribution which will help us fund a very important programme.

“I would like to thank Cindy Mason-Morris, Armed Forces Covenant Co-ordinator at Telford & Wrekin Council, for her efforts in helping to bring it all about. The funding will help us deliver a package of support through social forestry.

“Cindy came out to see the provision we have at the Green Wood Centre and, talking to her, we realised that what we do is such a complete fit in the support that veterans need to get them back into work in civilian life. The type of work within the woodland sector seem to fit really nicely with the skills they have.

“The Armed Forces Covenant Positive Pathways programme is playing a major role in supporting ex-servicemen and we are delighted to be playing our part in that process. We are committed to reinvigorating work opportunities within the woodlands sector and are helping to highlight them for people who are coming out of the Armed Services.

“It means we can continue to engage with veterans who are seeking to identify the positive pathways to civilian life. Participants will undertake a programme of woodland work, taking them out into woodland for the many positive mental and physical health benefits it can provide, whilst also highlighting opportunities for further volunteering or employment within the woodland sector.”

Mr Baker said the programme would also help those involved to build relationships with others for peer support while broadening their network.

“Funding was sought for a veteran-specific package of support following the success of our Build a Bench’ project, held at our Green Wood Centre – headquarters of Small Woods,” Mr Baker added.

“The programme has been attended by a number of ex-service personnel who found it useful in helping them adjust to civilian life whilst building connections with others.”

Councillor Chris Turley, Chair of the Telford & Wrekin Strategic Armed Forces Covenant Partnership Board, said: “Following their signing of the Armed Forces Covenant, Small Woods have introduced their first wellbeing programme to be specifically targeted at veterans of the Armed Forces.

“Out of the Woods will work with veterans to explore activities that could help alleviate the physical and mental health challenges they may face.

“We are very grateful to the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust for awarding this grant to Small Woods, which will help our residents learn new skills whilst connecting with nature as part of a brand new 12-week programme of woodland-based weekly activity.”

For more about Small Woods and the Green Wood Centre, visit the website at https://www.smallwoods.org.uk/

Pictured: Ian Baker, CEO of Small Woods in Shropshire.