Instinctively Wild

Award: £15,000
Timescale: 2018-2020

Project aims

The aim of this project is to provide a two-year programme of woodland activities, based in Wooplaw Community Woodland, for people living with early onset dementia that will:

  • Encourage physical exercise and improve physical health
  • Increase self-esteem and confidence.
  • Facilitate opportunity for social interaction and the development of supportive relationships.
  • Increase wellbeing through the stimulation of the senses whilst in the woodland environment
  • Use local assets to provide an opportunity for those with dementia to participate in a meaningful outdoor activity



Health professionals are increasingly aware of the importance of meaningful activity for those living with dementia. There is also recognition that for those living in a rural area such as the Scottish Borders, many of these valued activities are related to the natural environment.

As stated by the Social Care Institute for Excellence:

“The natural environment plays an important part in promoting and maintaining health and well being. It can also aid recovery from ill health” (Social Care Institute for Excellence, 2010).

Despite maintaining a good level of physical fitness, many people living with dementia find that they have limited opportunities to participate in outdoor activities they once enjoyed.  As well as missing out on the associated health and social benefits, this can also lead to a loss of self-esteem and self-confidence.

It is these issues that this project aims to address.


More Information

Instinctively Wild Services CIC began in 2008 as Borders Environmental Education Services and is based in Hawick in the Scottish Borders.  In 2016 they ran two pilot eco-therapy-based programmes for people with early onset dementia, devised in consultation with NHS Borders.

Feedback from these pilot programmes showed that they were valued by those living with dementia, their families and carers.  The evaluation also found a number of health and social benefits for participants.  The funding from the Life Changes Trust will be used to run further eco-therapy programmes that will build on the strengths and successes of these pilots.  

Each session will be run for two and a half hours each week over an eight week period at Wooplaw Community Woodland.  The sensory experiences of nature will be used to rekindle the memories of people living with dementia.  This will involve activities, designed on a week-by-week basis, that use the smells, sights, sounds, touch and taste of nature to trigger memories.   

Participants will be able to choose from a wide range of activities and sessions will be tailored to each individual’s experiences and feelings, but all sessions will include transport, music and social time.     

Unfortunately in Autumn 2018, the group had to move venue, from where they do their outdoors sessions. This was due to Wooplaw Community Woodland being vandalised. They now operate from The Haining in Selkirk.

Outcomes we'd like to see

With this project, we would like to see more opportunities for people living with dementia to take part in regular outdoor activity, leading to:

  • Increased physical activity and improved physical and mental well-being
  • Increased confidence and participation in community
  • A reduction in loneliness


Additional Information

Read more about Instinctively Wild on their website: