Gemma’s story: Nature saved my life

You probably know about the wonderful natural green spaces on our doorstep. But you may not know that those special places are also life-saving.

My name is Gemma and I’m a volunteer and member of Earth Trust.

In 2019 my mental health hit an all-time low. I wasn’t able to work, I felt lonely and unable to engage with people. I couldn’t see any way out. I came to the river to end my life.

Thankfully, I wasn’t successful. A therapist encouraged me to spend as much time in nature as I could – so that’s what I did. That was when my journey with green spaces really began – and Earth Trust changed my life.

I started taking walks around Mowbray Fields and the Wittenham Clumps. Before, if I went for a walk I’d have put my headphones in and avoided engaging with people. But now, I started to look up and notice the sounds and sights all around me. My shoulders dropped, my breaths deepened – I found being in nature so mindful.

Earth Trust gave me the opportunity to volunteer as a Community Warden. Not only have I enjoyed caring for my local green space in Didcot and learning more about my natural surroundings, I’ve met some truly wonderful people and feel a real sense of community.

Being in nature saved my life.

Today, I work for the ambulance service and I’m an active member of my community, volunteering regularly. As part of my journey to recovery, I gained so much from being able to explore and share my love of nature through walks and wildlife photography – and I’m so proud to have just completed my first photography exhibition. My motto now is ‘nature is my therapy’.

My confidence has grown hugely. And,  I now regularly take part in other volunteer opportunities that Earth Trust provides – helping out at public events, getting involved in research surveys. But I know there are others out there who need help like I did – people who are facing their own mental health challenges who could benefit so much from being in nature. Just last week, I stopped and spoke to a man on the Clumps for an hour who had recently lost his wife. Conversations like that mean so much.

I’m living proof that helping people to access and engage with green spaces is so important. Engaging with nature and the feeling of purpose and belonging I get as part of the Earth Trust community has changed my life. I want to help others experience this too.

Together, we can help connect more people with the environment – transforming lives in the process. So, that’s why I’m asking for your help.

I know from the Earth Trust team that we need support to help more people like me: that’s why they are launching a brand new membership scheme.

Your support will help fund essential work – like our Growing Places project, connecting disadvantaged communities to our local landscape with activities from wellbeing walks to volunteering.

Or our brand new Kitchen Garden, where children from all backgrounds can get hands-on outdoors and gain an understanding of where food comes from.

Will you join me by becoming one of the first of a new movement of people who are championing access and engagement with green spaces?

As a member you’ll help to make Earth Trust’s work sustainable for the long-term – so the green spaces that mean so much to our community can thrive and be available to us all, now and into the future. And what we do here, in Oxfordshire, can inspire so many others.

Thank you for reading my story.