The Hawthorn Project

Programme for Women in Recovery

The Hawthorn Project is a women’s recovery project based at Tortworth Forest Centre.

We invite women in recovery from substance abuse to join us for our weekly woodland sessions, to build confidence, self-esteem and wellbeing.

Summer Term 2019

April 24 – May 22 (5 sessions) and June 5 – July 17 (7 sessions)

Autumn Term 2019

September 11 – October 23 (7 sessions) and November 6th – December 4th (5 sessions)

Throughout the programme will develop skills and confidence that will support their ongoing recovery and improve self-esteem and wellbeing. The programme is funded by The National Lottery Community Fund and is completely free to participants.

Sign Up

Participants are asked to commit to the full programme as we know from experience that it takes a few sessions for women to start to take ownership of the programme and see the full benefits of being in the woods. Participants need to be in recovery at the time of the programme.

Transport is provided from Brunswick Square at 10.30am, returning at 3.30pm.

To register your interest please email

The Project

The project is the first of its kind, run by women for women. It offers women the opportunity to step outside of their day-to-day lives and spend some time in a safe space learning new skills, creating positive social connections and a break from focusing on their addiction.

A hugely successful pilot project run by Go Wild Education took place at the arboretum in 2016 with participants reporting improvements in their physical health, their relationships with their families, their self-esteem and enjoyment of life. Some of these women will return as peer mentors this spring.

As part of the Hawthorn Project, women will learn woodland skills such as fire lighting, outdoor cooking, plant, wildlife and birdsong identification, crafts and tool use. This is all taught in such a way so as to improve confidence, encourage peer support and teamwork, and of course to be enjoyable. All the activities are non-compulsory – we recognise the value of a good cup of tea and a chat! All we ask is our women come with a positive attitude and allow those who are doing activities to do so with encouragement and positivity.

Women who attended our pilot project say that it gives them something to look forward to each week, and a reason to stay sober.

The pilot project featured on BBC Points WestWoodlands TV and in the Bristol Post.

This project can dramatically change lives, creating a positive support network that will last beyond the duration of the project; women will have the support network, the tools and resources they need to continue their recovery.

Once the project is over the women are encouraged to join one of the volunteering and conservation opportunities at Tortworth Forest Centre which aims to support individuals in recovery.

Hear from the women we work with

One of the women who attend the pilot project, Roz, gave an interview to the Bristol Post:

She said: “Before the Bristol Drugs Project, I was drinking vodka all day, every day.” Now she has committed to stop drinking in order to stay on the programme.

“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 had stopped her worrying and made her feel more hopeful for her future.

She said: “I’m the youngest of eight 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.”

Roz has now been clear of alcohol for over a year and continues to visit Tortworth Arboretum to support other women.

Who are the Woodland Women?

Go Wild Education partnered with Tortworth Forest Centre to run this project.


Bec Cork runs nature-based events in woodlands across the UK, from off-grid family camping weekends to women’s retreats. Bec is first aid trained and an experienced teacher of woodland crafts and activities.

As well as her events, Bec Cork manages the woodland at Tortworth. She founded the Tortworth Forest Centre in 2016 with two aims; to restore the once majestic arboretum, and to open it up to people who will benefit from a connection to nature.

The arboretum is a 20-acre woodland full of native and exotic trees, some hundreds of years old, and it is being restored sustainably with the support of hundreds of volunteers, from all different walks of life. Bec has worked with a number of different groups at Tortworth from adults with addiction, families, youth groups and forest school groups.

Jill Thompson has worked (and sometimes lived) in a few woodlands over the years, including Tinkers Bubble woodland community, Leigh Woods and more recently Tortworth Arboretum since early summer this year. She is a qualified Bushcraft instructor and Tree surgeon. Some of her favourite woodland activities are: lighting fires, cooking on the fire and meeting new people round the fire and foraging for all things edible and herbal.


Go Wild Education was founded by inspiring and experienced outdoor educator, Jackie Roby. Jackie is a qualified teacher, forest school leader and trainer, an outdoor first-aider, a skilled environmental educator and has a PGDip in Education.

Jackie has worked for many of Bristol’s green institutions including the Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project, Bristol Zoo and the Wild Place Project.


When she isn’t Forest Schooling, Jackie can be found in the Wye Valley, generally getting muddy and enjoying the countryside.