How to hygge a tree
Westonbirt Arboretum has recently produced a book based on their experiences of running well-being and community engagement activities.
Karen Price, Community Youth Officer, explains more.
Over the past four years, the community engagement team at Westonbirt has been developing activities to support new audiences to visit the national arboretum. With funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), we have enabled almost 5,000 participants (young people and vulnerable and /or older adults) to discover more about the historic collection and the wonders of trees.
However, over the four years we realised our new audiences were learning about much more than trees – they were learning about themselves. Learning to be proud of their achievements; learning that their opinion mattered and they had something worthwhile to say; learning how to deal with things that didn’t quite work out; and learning how to use trees, woods and forests for their wellbeing, mental health and quality of life.
Although not our original HLF target, a reduction in anxiety and increased self esteem, confidence and general well-being was what participants and their group leaders wanted, and why they were participating in the community programme. And there was something about the combination of the arboretum, its atmosphere, and the experiences the community programme provided that enabled this.
Trying to identify what this was, we came across the Danish concept of hygge.
‘a deep sense of place and wellbeing; a feeling of friendship, warmth, contentment and peace with your immediate surroundings’
So we put together the book, 'How to Hygge a Tree'. It explores some of the concepts, methods and activities we used in the community programme. From building relationships and shared memories; creating the right atmosphere through familiarity, belonging and ownership; to keeping it simple and going back to basics – however rustic that maybe.
We didn’t always get it right. That was part of the learning process. I learnt that you need to blanch nettles thoroughly before adding them to cous cous. I also learnt how incredibly polite our management team are, discreetly discarding the nettles from their food whilst thinking no-one was looking.
But quite often we did get it right.
The comment I think I will always remember came from a teenage young woman, who cared for her disabled mother: