enhancing well-being via contact with the natural world
Nemeton is a Proto-Celtic word meaning a protected or ritual space. Nemetona is the plural, and is also the name of an ancient goddess of sacred places such as groves of trees, secret springs and pools, and other special outdoor spaces.
The Nemetona Programme (NP) refers to any one-off session, or series of sessions, undertaken by any one group or individual. It refers also to the wider project as a whole.
It has a simple three-point key purpose for participants:
- to enjoy being out in nature for its own sake
- to enhance well-being during the time spent in the nemeton
- to provide a cognitive framework and skills for sustaining well-being once returned to everyday life.
The programme is bespoke for every group and can be used with work-based, volunteer, community or other types of groups of up to 10 for relationship and team-building experiences, and for their general enrichment and improved well-being. It has been used extensively in the past with self-selected groups and individuals for improved well-being and wider personal development. More in-depth longer term programmes with a therapeutic focus are also available for small groups (max 5) or individuals.
What the NP most definitely is not, is a traditional ‘outdoor programme’ in the sense of being very physically active, or having specific challenges to overcome. Neither is it competitive in any way.
The heart of the NP is that of entering a ritual space which is different from participants’ everyday reality. These spaces are most often nature reserves or gardens protected by conservation organisations – hence nemetona. There, participants experience and engage intentionally with the nature of the nemeton, before returning to their everyday reality; usually enhanced by the experience and able to sustain an improved level of well-being via improved levels of awareness. This will be ‘taught’ as part of the session, though there are no tests to pass, or programme expectations.
Programme sessions are made up of gentle walking with natural history input relevant to the nemeton (if desired); periods of silence and sensory acuity development; and facilitated discussion and reflection, along with input on awareness-raising techniques. Although indoor activities can form part of some longer term programmes (see Case Studies) being outdoors, with all the benefits that brings for physical – and in particular, mental health – is the key focus.
Being outdoors in nature also provides opportunities for participants – if they wish – to increase their local natural history knowledge, to take nature photographs, or to gain resources for subsequent engagement with nature writing or other nature-based arts and crafts: all activities which can potentially enhance individuals’ well-being. Whilst these added-value creative aspects are not part of sessions themselves, creative mentors are available, via the NP, to anyone who wants to develop one or more of those aspects for themselves.
The ‘silent sandwich’ is the fundamental structure for any NP session, short or long. Plenary sessions at the beginning and end of entering the nemeton are the ‘bread’: participants walk, talk and notice together, focusing on the habitat, species and weather conditions in the nemeton. The main substance of the sandwich is time alone, in silence, walking or resting, and engaging intentionally with developing sensory acuity. Techniques for doing this will be offered by the facilitator. In the second, closing plenary, there is time for processing, feedback and questions. Strategies for leaving the nemeton – and how to re-access later – will be offered.
The silent sandwich process can be as short as a few minutes for each stage; or structured, with appropriate breaks, to last several hours or a whole day. Stages will not necessarily last equal amounts of time. Length of stages and types and amounts of input and direction from the facilitator depend on the group’s previously identified priorities; on time available; on immediate issues arising; and to changing weather or other environmental conditions.
Daphne oversees the programme as a whole and facilitates the longer therapeutic programmes. She is currently developing other facilitators for the shorter enhancing well-being sessions, so you will probably get two for the price of one.
There are many factors we take into consideration for pricing. Generally prices range from £500 to £800 for a half day programme (3 hours, morning or afternoon) for up to 10 participants. Please contact us for an accurate quote.
Travel and any accommodation is an additional at-cost charge. Also, if participants are not members of the organisation that protects the nemeton (eg RSPB, National Trust etc), they may have to pay an entrance fee. Or, even better, support conservation by joining the organisation.
Costs are generally lower – or potentially donation only – for not-for-profits, charitable and voluntary sectors.
Background to and influences on the Programme
This information is currently being compiled.