The Occupational Therapy student using nature to nurture wellbeing

Published by  Communications

On 3rd Nov 2021

Pottery painting, pumpkins and pigs: on Occupational Therapy Week (Monday 1 November – Sunday 7 November) one UEA student has helped people to discover that the great outdoors can be the key to wellbeing.

Jenny Walton is in the second year of her Occupational Therapy Degree Apprenticeship at UEA and, with the course starting in 2020, is part of the first ever cohort of occupational therapy apprentices at the University.

As part of the placement on her degree, Jenny has begun work at Field Of Dreams Farm, a care farm based in Thurston, near Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, where she helps deliver activities such as mindfulness walks, plant pot painting, woodwork creation and feeding animals including pigs, sheep, geese, goats, chickens and alpacas.

The farm is run by Sue Smith and has linked up with the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) to provide on-site activities to support people’s mental health, with the farm open to anyone from the general public.

Jenny got involved in her placement on the farm through a conversation with Sue.

Jenny said: “It was a case of meeting together at the right time in life. Sue wanted to do something that focused on mental health and I was looking for somewhere to work on my placement. I live locally and had visited the farm a couple of times – I loved what they’d been doing so I approached Sue on the off chance and they took me on for my placement.

“I’ve really enjoyed it so far, it’s been so rewarding. Occupational therapy is all about finding solutions to overcoming problems and helping people to live their best life. What Sue and the team are doing at Field Of Dreams is giving people exactly that chance and it’s so gratifying to be able to help them.”

Care farms use farming practices as part of a restorative healing treatment or therapy and are an established means of improving mental health and wellbeing, as well as having the capacity to provide young people with new skills and giving less able-bodied people and people with learning difficulties the chance to experience the natural world in a new way.

Jenny said: “There are so many different activities that people can get involved with that can have a calming and relaxing effect. There are kids clubs, plant pot painting workshops, sculpture making and at the moment we’re growing pumpkins and winter vegetables. Lots of people just come along to feed or say hello to the animals – you can really see the positive impact that it all has.”

You can find out more about Occupational Therapy Week here and occupational therapy as a whole on the Royal College of Occupational Therapists website.

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