Lending a hand - Gwent Police staff volunteer at a woodland centre for those living with PTSD.

Staff from Gwent Police have been busy helping at the Pen-y-graig Woodland centre near Penallt in Monmouthshire. They have been helping erect fences and volunteering in their spare time to get the centre ready to open during this Autumn.

The centre contains eight acres of ancient broad leaf woodland beside the River Wye and will have a cabin for seasonal forestry accommodation with a renovated 18th century barn for a workshops and coaching. It will host courses aimed at employees from blue light organisations and the military, whom are experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The pilot programme is funded through the Welsh Government’s Co-operation and Supply Chain Development Scheme and will support a new health care supply chain based in the Gwent region. The scheme hopes to develop new procedures, processes and methods to accelerate recovery and it is expected that these methods will also help to reduce the sense of stigma and social isolation experienced by sufferers.

Additionally, the pilot hopes to demonstrate how such participants can help in the regeneration of a neglected ancient woodland and support the local economy through timber and craft product sales together with employment. This will allow a form of forestry diversification in which the operating costs can be offset by paid health care provision in the future.

The exciting project is likely to include using heavy draft horses for logging, learning how to dry stone wall and lessons in wood craft. There will also be professionals on site to offer clinical support through counselling and similar services.

James Cooke, a former Metropolitan Police officer, is the managing director for the Pen-Y-Graig Ancient Woodland Training and Products Centre. He said; "Volunteer work parties have already started work getting the deer fence set up to protect a reinstated Hazel Coppice for rods to make baskets and hurdles".

Speaking about the volunteers' help, including CSO Peter Walker and PCs Alan Cotteral and Leanne Williams, Mr Cooke commented; "I am honoured to be working with Gwent Police's brave staff and Insp Amanda Williams, recently retired, former head of the wellbeing team. Having gone through my own dark days of PTSD I know only too well its disabling effect."

Community Support Officer, Peter Walker said; "I got involved as I was diagnosed and treated for PTSD. In my opinion this centre will provide treatment in a relaxed, private and beautiful environment for people who have seen or experienced traumatic events. I have first-hand experience of the effect PTSD can have on a person’s life, family and career.  If my small contribution can help with someone’s recovery then I feel I have a responsibility to help."

Mr Cooke concluded; "the web site will be operational at the end of the month and we hope to start in Mid-late October once selected staff are ready."