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Did school visits and GP referrals to activities in Chopwell Wood improve the health and well-being of nearby communities?


The project set up a referral scheme so general practitioners in Gateshead could refer patients to Chopwell Wood for physical activities (cycle, walk, t’ai chi, conservation work). Four schools also visited the wood to learn about health, nutrition and complementary therapy as part of the Healthy Schools programme. Forest Research assessed levels of participation, attitudes to health and woodlands, and whether participants’ health had improved.

Key findings

GP referral scheme

  • 33 referrals (13 were from five local practices, 20 from practices further afield)
  • High completion rates (91%) for the 13-week activity programme
  • Most individuals continued to participate in Chopwell Wood activities after the end of their programme
  • Improvements in physical health, particularly due to weight loss
  • Development of social networks
  • Proactive promotion of the project contributed to 128 additional attendances at project activities (not referred by GPs)

Derwent Health Schools programme

  • Over 200 young people and staff from four local schools participated in the programme
  • Significant increase in the percentage of pupils regarding the wood as a healthy place (87% after the programme compared with 74% prior to participation)
  • Increased usage of Chopwell Wood by young people, staff and families
  • Parents and staff felt very strongly that the programme had a positive influence on the young people
  • Schools and parents said the programme was an effective tool for learning which contributed well to the National Curriculum

Our involvement

Forest Research managed the overall evaluation for the Forestry Commission. We helped to design the monitoring programme and supported the partner organisations to collect baseline data for comparative purposes.

The evaluation used qualitative and quantitative techniques including questionnaires and semi-structured interviews with participants, staff and other stakeholders.


Funders and partners

A partnership project between Forestry Commission, Derwentside Primary Care Trust, Gateshead Primary Care Trust and the Friends of Chopwell Wood.

Northumbria University Primary Care Development Centre carried out the evaluation of the project in 2004 and 2005.

The Friends of Chopwell Wood carried out a questionnaire survey in Chopwell Wood as part of the project.

Forest Research managed the overall evaluation for the Forestry Commission.


Liz O’Brien



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