WildWomen in the Bristol Post

Rebecca Cork, Jackie Roby and Emma Coates of Go Wild

Rebecca Cork, Jackie Roby and Emma Coates of Go Wild

Our Wild Women project is in the Bristol Post today!

Inspirational drugs recovery project needs funding for bushcraft sessions


Bushcraft teachers at a woodland project are hoping to transform the way women are treated for drug addiction.

We all know the benefits of getting out into the fresh air and exploring nature, but the Go Wild project is harnessing the power of woodland in a different way.

A pilot project called Wild Women has been running in Long Ashton which takes women who are in recovery from drug and alcohol misuse into the woods for one day a week to help build confidence, self-esteem and wellbeing.

The project is the first of its kind, run by women for women, that offers the group the opportunity to step out of their day-to-day lives and spend some time in a safe space learning new skills.

Just a few weeks into the programme, founder of Go Wild, Jackie Roby, said the results had been inspirational.

She said: “We learn new skills and we cook together. It focuses on the future, rather than the addiction.

“Being out in nature teaches resilience and builds self-esteem, it is about giving people the resources to deal with addiction, like self-confidence and belief.”

Jackie is a qualified teacher and forest school leader and set up the social enterprise in 2010. She puts on bushcraft lessons for women of all backgrounds alongside her colleagues Rebecca Cork and Emma Coates.

She said: “You don’t often see much for women when it comes to bushcraft, because people assume that’s not what women are into and it’s all for men.

“But that’s not the case at all.

“When you bring a group of women out here, you tend to see teamwork and they help each other out to create things, and it becomes a very safe and accepting place.”

The group of eight women are learning woodland skills such as firelighting, outdoor cooking, plant and wildlife identification, birdsong and tool use, all taught in such a way so as to improve confidence, resilience and self-esteem.

Jackie’s project is now in need of funding, so she can continue offering sessions to women who need them.

So far, Jackie and her team have been funding them using their own money.

One of the women who attend the project, Roz, said she had gone from drinking vodka in bed all the day to being off drink for four weeks to make sure she stays on the programme.

She said: “Before the Bristol Drugs Project, I was drinking vodka all day, every day.

“I’d lay in bed all day, every day. I never went anywhere or spoke to anyone.

“One day things went too far – I started smashing up my flat and hurting myself.

“A doctor referred me to the women’s group at Bristol Drugs Project and this was all huge for me. I hadn’t left the house in weeks, seen or spoken to anyone.

“My whole body was shaking and every step was painful.”

Roz said that being in the woods with Jackie had stopped her worrying and made her feel more hopeful for her future.

She said: “I’m the youngest of six and my childhood was spent playing in the woods near our home. I loved it. I felt like it was where I belonged

“All those memories came back to me and I felt excited for the first time in a long time. When I got to go to the woods I woke up that morning looking forward to something. It was exciting to get ready to go somewhere.

“I’m always worrying, but when I come to the woods, I switch off my phone. I feel free.

“Last week I went to see my doctor to talk to her about how I’m getting on and she was amazed. She said my face looked better and she could see how much being in the woods was benefitting me

“She was going to put me on a detox programme but she could see that this is my detox. I haven’t had a drink in four weeks because if I start, I won’t be able to stop.”

The sessions are being held in woodland owned by the Forestry Commission in Long Ashton.

Read more:

Wild Women

I’ve suspected for a while that if you put a bunch of women into a woodland together then amazing things will happen. I suppose that over the years of running about in the woods with people of all ages, I’ve realised that when women manage to get into the wild there a few things that are quite common: lack of confidence, thinking that outdoors is macho, thinking they won’t be able to ‘do’ it, the belief that outdoor skills are hard.


Thing is, it’s not. There’s actually nothing macho or difficult about firelighting. Although, if you believe the internet or the telly, it’s really complicated and you need to be as rough as guts to achieve anything. Then again, if you believe the internet or the telly…

Occasionally I’ll check out a survival course online or dip into a bushcraft forum and it’s all about the kit and the khaki and the ‘challenge‘ and even I feel intimidated. And I know what I’m doing. So how would a woman who knew nothing about that kind of thing feel? My guess is, she’d run a mile.

So finally, last September, I got the chance to find out what happens when a group of women gather in the woodlands together when I ran the Wonder Women Bushcraft weekend. No, we didn’t get naked, no we didn’t giggle and talk about boys and no, and you can’t watch (a common request). What happened, right from the start, was that an incredibly supportive and relaxed environment materialised. The age range was twenty-four to sixty-six and everyone managed to light a fire. Easily. And then some.

The women learnt about firewood and different firelighting techniques, and about knifework and tool safety and all the way through they supported and encouraged each other and everyone flourished. I watched as confidence soared, skills were mastered and friendships were formed. The words ‘empowered’ ‘confident’ and ‘self-assured’ floated about over cups of tea by the campfire. It wasn’t about what people were wearing, how they looked or what they had done before. It was about women doing things for themselves, sharing in experiences and stepping off of the treadmill of life.

It was lovely but as I stared at the Waitrose olives and the M&S biscuits, a massive part of me wanted to know if it would be the same if we gathered together a group of women who would never get the chance to do such a thing. What would happen? Would it be any different?

Nine months later and we are 2 weeks into a 6 week pilot project with women from the Bristol Drugs Project. These women are at various stages in their journey to recovery from drug and alcohol misuse. Their lives are messy, there is often violence and they have never been offered the opportunity to do something like this. There is simply nothing along these lines for women, by women.

I have an inkling into what life is like for these women but in reality I have no idea. I’m not interested in whatever label they have been given. I don’t like labels, they encourage preconceptions, whether helpful or not, and quite often what is really underneath the label is a human being who is a little bit lost. It could so easily be you or I. Luckily, there are no labels in the woods, which is what makes it such a restorative place to spend time. Without labels we can’t prejudice, even inadvertently.

In the two sessions that we have spent in the woods we have learnt firelighting, cooked over the campfire, learnt about trees and birdsong. There is a sense of achievement, a sense of camaraderie and a break from the challenges of daily life. The only challenges that are presented to them are ones that are surmountable and fun.

I have an amazing team of talented, compassionate and dazzling ladies to back me up: Emma, Bec and Nikki who each have their skills and talents and care about this as much as I do. The thought that this will have to come to an end, due to lack of funding, is terrifying. There’s so much to achieve and we already know that we are making a difference. Getting women into woodlands is so empowering, and we will do everything we can to continue. This project is part of my goal to change the perception of women in woodlands. I want to de-macho and demystify the great outdoors and, by doing so, show women that we are capable of enjoying all of the tranquillity and beauty that Nature has to offer.

National Play Champions

Go Wild are National Play Champions! How exciting! It’s all to do with National Children’s Day which is on the 17th May.

Apparently ‘Play Champions are children’s centres, playgroups, schools and other settings where children find space and time for play of all kinds – creative, exploratory, imaginative, deep play, rough and tumble play, role play, mastery play – any type of play that involves children’s natural creativity and being able to do lots of things without needing to focus on specific, pre-determined outcomes’. Which is a complicated way of saying that Play Champions give children the time and space to explore, create, discover, delve into their imaginations and have fun without telling them what to do… or being scared that they’re not learning.

I think the same applies to adults too.