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DEFRY - What happened?

Updated: May 4, 2021

The Community Covid Response Funded, DEFRY, pilot project was successfully completed by March, 2021. It was 2 years in the planning and culminated in a winter/spring project in February, after many unplanned execution revisions necessary due to the constantly changing pandemic restrictions.

We recruited 15 young people between 11-14 years and the project resulted in the founding of the Back To The Wild “Wild Tribe. We have now launched our website where you are reading this blog!! We increased social media presence, started a YouTube channel, a mail chimp network, developed new digital learning resources and delivered iHeart (Innate Health Education and Resilience Training). We also built two woodland spaces for educational and storage purposes for use by Back To Wild CIC and other community organisations such as the scouts and forest school groups in Hall Wood at Hellens.

After the programme participants felt generally more hopeful, more positive about themselves, less stressed, less angry, happier, less worried, more confident and less lonely. There was also an increase in perceived connection to nature. All the participants are due to attend a follow-up face to face event in the woods when restrictions have been lifted.

Keep reading to find out out more……

Our structure in woods

A large part of our project budget was for an outdoor structure. Having run projects in the past and used temporary shelter for kitchen, classroom and store areas, we were keen to create a more robust woodland hub that could be used by Back To The Wild Projects and other community groups. As part of the programme we wanted to leave a legacy of improvement to educational infrastructure at our Hall Wood Camp Base which could be utilised.

Our key needs were for shelter from the elements, a clean and usable kitchen space, washing up facility and dry kit storage. An area that could be utilised as an outdoor education space in inclement weather was also desired.

The brief we gave to the building team (pictured below) was for dry secure storage, covered seating/workspace for a group of 15-20 people, cattle-proof construction (as there is a free roaming herd sometimes on site), water harvesting, woodland sympathetic aesthetics and inspirational to young people. Over 6 weeks, one day a week, a team of 4 created these purpose built semi-permanent sustainable structures in the woods, using timber from Hallwood, felled on site and milled at Hellens.

Day one of six, in the woodland the first of the two structures being erected in the woods.

Second stucture starting to take shape and some much needed sun after some rainy muddy work days!

Day six.... Left to right: Kieran, Viv and Sam

More about our online half term program

The DeFry half term programme delivery was entirely on-line. Although we understood, from talking to young people and other organisations prior to delivery, that most people were a bit “zoomed out” from participation in activities on-line, virtual and homeschooling activities. We had very little choice than to run Zoom and video based activities, expanding on work we had previously done with young people during the Covid19 pandemic.

The aim of on-line delivery was to assist young people in connecting with nature and connect them with the nature of themselves, via learning wellbeing knowledge, learning about nature and our place in the natural world.

The morning sessions were held on Zoom between 10am - 12.30pm (with a couple of breaks) and involved an interactive "iHeart" programme which was fun and engaged young people with content all about resilience and well-being. Perfect for these times of lockdown survival that we found ourselves in and thriving for future life. The 10 lessons of iHeart (Innate Health Education & Resilience Training) delivered within the programme across the week were condensed shorter versions of the 11 x 1 hour wellbeing lessons designed for face to face delivery with schools for people between 10-19 years old. More information can be found at

For the afternoon programme we used pre recorded virtual workshops that our the young people viewed and participated in. The videos were recorded by experts in the field (regular partners of B2W). The videos guided them through activities together with materials supplied in the DEFRY “Goody Bags”.

Check out our videos yourself!!!

Outback2Basics, Stone Age Fat/Nut lamps

Bym from Beat Bang Bong Recycled Instruments

Back to the Wild‘s Rainy day clay and Creative Clay, pinch pot making

We encouraged young people to share their afternoon creations on-line with us using hashtags or tagging us on social media or even sharing with us via WhatsApp or email.

The videos included Stone Age experts (as seen on Ch4"Surviving the Stoneage"), a Welsh creative writing specialist, a recycled material "Music Making Master" from North Herefordshire, an inspirational local ceramicist and a youth ecologist.

The goody bags that were sent out the weekend before Half Term week contained (amongst other things) all the materials young people needed to take part in activities such as air drying clay, recycled materials for creating musical instruments, iHeart booklets etc. These were delivered to participants at home and for free.

Photo challenge

As part of the DEFRY week we ran a photo challenge, asking young people to get outside and take pictures of things in nature. Several members of the group were keen photographers and we therefore expanded the competition to include ‘Best nature photograph’ taken in the past year. We had lots of fantastic entries.

Check out our Facebook or Instagram account to see the entries!

Poems and kennings

Written after the Emma Beynon ‘Creative Writing' virtual workshop some of our young people created some amazing work! See some examples below...

Our Aims/Outcomes of the project:

  • To support personal and social development, recovery and reconnection post COVID19.

  • To re-connect with themselves, natural environment and ecology.

  • Receive 10 hours of iHeart curriculum (enabling, uncovering and discovering innate reliance well-being and positive mental health

  • Getting young people outdoors, experiencing the seasons winter and spring.

  • Safely facilitating social group communication and development of life skills such as fire lighting/cooking

  • Introducing young people to ecology (self, group and nature)

Participants filled out a before and after questionnaire online, aimed at gaining an insight into the impact of the work on their mood state as well as exploring whether our methods enabled participants to feel more connected to nature. There was also an opportunity at the end of the form to offer unstructured feedback with a number of open-ended questions.

  • Outcomes evidence shows us that there was an increase in participants finding beauty in nature and feeling part of nature and more than a 20% positive shift in participants identifying themselves as part of nature, rather than as separate to nature after the project.

  • Evidence also revealed that participants generally felt more hopeful, more positive about themselves, less stressed, less angry, happier, less sad and worried, more confident and less lonely after the weeklong programme.

  • Participants felt stronger resilience to past problems getting them down, increased self belief and a desire to do well at school together with a positive increase in ‘getting along well with classmates’ after the iHeart programme.

  • Evaluations also indicate an increase in respect, more effective ‘working together with people they don’t agree with’ and working together in general and we certainly noticed participants became more interactive during the programme and related to each other more over time.

We are looking forward to getting our groups out into the woods this summer!

Huge thank you to The Coronavirus Community Support Fund

distributed by The National Lottery Community Fund.

Thank you to the government for making this possible.

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