Forty Hall Vineyard is a beautiful and unique setting for taking part in relaxing, physical, outdoor activity throughout the year. The vineyard is one of a rapidly growing number of ecotherapy projects (also known as ‘green care’ or ‘green exercise’ projects) around the UK which aim to boost physical and mental wellbeing.
It is just another way of saying that doing some kind of physical activity in the natural environment will make you feel better about yourself. A recent report Ecotherapy: the green agenda for mental health by the mental-health charity, MIND, details the scientific research which confirms that people with physical and mental-health problems really do benefit from engaging in simple outdoor activities. Gardening, walking and exercise can help lift your mood and reduce stress, develop motivation and raise self-esteem, while contact with others reduces isolation and loneliness, provides a source of support and helps improve social skills.
Charlotte, a trained Horticultural Therapist works on all our volunteer sessions to provide a warm welcome and a listening ear to any volunteers who might want to have an informal chat about difficulties or stresses they may be facing or to share achievements and successes. Charlotte is supported by our two Locum workers, Charlotte and Anna, both volunteers at FHV who have found that volunteering at FHV has helped them. For more information how volunteering at the vineyard could help you or someone your know, please contact us.
I had been a homemaker for 13 years and I was looking for a way back into work. I thought that volunteering could be it. Volunteering would bring rhythm and structure to my weeks as well as giving my life a purpose. My home had become a self-imposed prison and I was becoming depressed. I knew I had to get out of the house and do something productive. The vineyard was to be my saviour.
During the two years I have been at the vineyard, my confidence has grown. I have acquired many new skills, made new friends and seized new opportunities.
I feel like a whole person again.
My sense of self worth has returned and I have even got back my old sense of humour, especially when the farm pigs decided to run amok among the vines!
“I have been volunteering at the vineyard for about two years, during which time I have been unemployed and trying to get back into work.”
“I suffer from depression, so volunteering helps a great deal to lift my mood. The regular routine, working outdoors, getting exercise and fresh air keeps my mind occupied. It helps me to socialise more, and improve my communication skills by working as part of a team with people from all different walks of life. It even creates possible job links.”
In May 2010, I left my job as a lawyer and signed on to a one-year horticulture course at Capel Manor College. There, I saw an advert recruiting volunteers to Forty Hall Vineyard. I had had a bit of experience in vineyards in New Zealands, so started coming here every week on Wednesdays and monthly on Sundays.
At that point, I was struggling with anorexia, which had taken control of my life. Each day had become incredibly painful mentally and physically, and I was struggling to find any sort of peace. Those few hours working outside in the vineyard with the other volunteers [were] like a saviour to me.
Being in the fresh air, doing physical work and having warm, inspirational people around gave me a glimmer of hope for the future. I started to see that my life could be different and, when I started my course at Capel Manor College later that year, I had begun to feel like I was part of life again and had a lot to look forward to.
It has been fantastic experience working on the vineyard, learning about grape growing in the UK and meeting such a diverse group of people.
On a practical level, I have received training in grape growing and wine making, which has been a great help in understanding the vineyard tasks. I’ve met Forty Hall’s winemaker and seen how he manages his own vineyard and the wine-making process.
Three years down the line, both my health and my career have made huge leaps forward. I feel incredibly lucky to have stumbled across my passion for viticulture and horticulture. After my Capel Manor course, I completed a placement at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden, then found a job as assistant gardener on a private estate in Suffolk. From this, I got my current job as a gardener on a large private estate, assisting the owner to redevelop a four-acre walled garden and manage an established two-acre vineyard – the perfect combination! Three years ago when I started volunteering at Forty Hall Vineyard, I could never have imagined that I would be in this position now; embarking on an exciting project combining horticulture and viticulture.
Although I now live 50 miles away from Forty Hall Vineyard, I still try be involved as much as I can. I will always remember how much my time spent volunteering helped me turn things around for the better.
Dan was among the very first volunteers to plant our first ever acre of vines five years ago. He continues to volunteer regularly in his capacity as one of the FHV Team Leaders, running volunteering sessions on a Wednesday and mentoring new volunteers.
A keen fisherman, cyclist and curry maker, Dan is also a natural in front of the camera and when talking with the public. He was the star turn at the FHV stall at the Real Wine Fair in April last year, offering tastings of our first ever vintage and telling the FHV story to wine critics, journalists and international wine makers of world repute.
“Living with schizophrenia, I have found working at the vineyard has been an important part of my journey back to health. Green therapy at the vineyard worked for me and I have seen improvements in others. Coming to the vineyard gives structure to my week and gets me out of the house and into the fresh air. I enjoy working and socialising with the other volunteers – good for body and soul!”
"After a session, I always feel better and sleep better that night." "Being outside at the vineyard is priceless. I always feel better after a visit and it clears my head and gives me respite." "I was struggling a lot; working in the outdoors takes my mind off things, makes me feel more positive and has improved my mental state." “It gives me a sense of pride to be involved in this successful and meaningful project”