Wellbeing Walk Group Help Create Beautiful Canal and Woodland Sculptures

Nature Walks for Wellbeing are weekly outings which connect people with the outdoors, and provide mindful activities to help those with mental health problems. The walks, which take place along the Caledonian Canal and surrounding greenspace in Inverness, encourage people to create and explore in a relaxed, inclusive, social setting. People taking part come from a range of backgrounds, with many participants joining us from local rehabilition units including New Craig’s Psychiatric Hospital.

Recently Nature Walks were joined by Owen Pilgrim, a wood carver based in Fife who loves to link his wood with stories – some that come from the wood itself and a lot of it from the people and places that surround any project he works on.  Owen’s work can be strong medicine as it connects people with mythology and has healing and therapeutic elements through the grain.

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For Nature Walks, Owen listened to the voices participants and considered the places and purpose of our request – to create three benches that link the canal with our friends and neighbours at Merkinch Local Nature Reserve and Dunain Community Woodland. These are the main places where we enjoy the values of greenspace in Inverness with Nature Walks, where we walk, talk, play and socialise for mutual benefit.  The group also got the chance for three days in October to come along to a New Craig’s Psychiatric Hospital workshop and help to understand and shape the canal sculpture.

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The benches are all made from western red cedar (Thuja plicata) – a wood that Native Americans often used for totem poles, something that inspires Owen’s work currently. All three of the benches have a ‘totem’ end approximately 1.5m tall at one side and will be finished with a large chunk of seating area around 1.5m long.

Highland canal officer Stephen, who runs the project, said:

These works of art will be really appreciated and attract great attention for sure!  They have a gorgeous smell and are very tactile, lovely to touch, providing a great sensory experience. Apart from that they will provide a place to rest and wonder, something we all need from time to time.

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Each totem tells a story of the place where it will sit and its nature. Linking through all of them is the idea of a person wearing a mask of protection to keep them safe and comfortable on their journey and watching over the land and its nature. The Dunain woodland bench has a wolf mask and the bearer holding a drum, a guide of the forest that is not there physically any more but is present watchfully in spirit as a guardian. The Caledonian Canal mask is of a duck, to give fortitude on the water, in a little boat ready for journey with paddle in hand and the Merkinch Reserve’s masked totem is of a deer looking through the flowers with a bell in hand.  The full story of each will be told very soon when they are set in place during November.

For more information about Nature Walks for Wellbeing or to get involved contact stephen@scottishwaterwaystrust.org.uk

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