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Welcome to our blog


A little insight into our work behind The Cass Foundation scenes, We seek new and innovative ways to build better places and systems for people and wildlife.  We introduce you to the team and share some of our stories and passions that all contribute to making The Cass Foundation such a burgeoning success story.

By cassfoundation, Dec 3 2018 09:00AM

Good clinical care accounts for only 20% of what makes us healthy. The main factors that determine good health are healthy behaviours, socio-economic factors and our environment.


The Cass Foundation’s motto of ‘healthy places, healthy lives’ fits comfortably into this area of health and wellbeing. Our projects are aimed at improving health by a duel approach, of improving the environment and offering nature-based activities that link people to their local green space, building both personal and community resilience.

Mental Health

In Liverpool, over 66,000 people have a mental health condition, with depression, anxiety and serious mental illness depriving many of a good quality of life. Deprivation contributes considerably to poor mental health. For individuals and their families, it can mean disrupted lives, limited life opportunities, financial hardship, poor education and employment prospects and social isolation.


Nature's Therapy

One of the signature activities developed by The Cass Foundation is the Nature’s Therapy program. Our unique approach evolved in response to the need for non-clinical activities aimed at improving mental health for adults. There is a body of supportive evidence to connect outdoor physical activities and proximity to nature with improved mental health. Our Nature’s Therapy sessions usually run for twelve consecutive weekly sessions, during which time we cover a variety of task based and mindfulness exercises, including bush craft activities such as making fires, collecting wood, outdoor cooking, foraging, nature identification as well as sharing ecotherapy and mindfulness techniques; slowing down, isolating the senses, welcoming stillness.

Throughout the process of reaching small, achievable goals, which include personal tasks such as whittling a spoon, or as a group such as preparing a communal meal, an unforced sociability develops between the participants and before long a strong friendship group is formed, and participants report notable personal, self-recognised achievements and personal improvements.

Case Study 2

‘A’ was a successful teacher when she suddenly became disabled. She rehabilitated to independent living when she was burgled whilst in her home. After relocating and three years of isolation, depression and anxiety she felt strong enough, with supportive encouragement, to join our ‘Nature’s Therapy’ group. Within weeks she had rediscovered her voice, began developing trust and became receptive to signposting to other wheelchair accessible activities such as Archery, Boccia, the theatre etc. ‘A’ regained her spirit and confidence and within 18 months, despite her struggles and physical challenges, she has achieved her ambition of becoming a wonderful foster carer.

The activities we offer vary in response to the needs and requirements within the different areas where we work as well as proximity to accessible greenspace. Whether it is Therapeutic Horticulture, Nordic walking, Outdoor volunteering, Nature Walks, Drumming in Nature or Nature’s Therapy, our primary focus is getting participants outdoors and letting the power of our natural world take effect. For many, quality time spent outdoors does not feature in their daily routine, but a common thread of feedback for all our participants is that they feel so much better for being outside, especially when the weather is bad.

Social Prescribing

Social prescribing, sometimes referred to as community referral, is a means of enabling GPs, nurses and other primary care professionals to refer people to a range of local, non-clinical support.

Social prescribing is designed to support people with a wide range of social, emotional or practical needs, and many schemes are focussed on improving mental health and physical well-being. Those who could benefit from social prescribing schemes include people with mild or long-term mental health problems, vulnerable groups, people who are socially isolated, and those who frequently attend either primary or secondary health care.


For many years we have been engaging with local GP services and NHS centres, to promote our services and find ways to encourage a form of referral onto our courses and activities. We have been astounded by the positive benefits that our sessions have had on individual’s lives and health. We have worked closely with local partners to develop an evidence base to reflect these benefits, especially through a joint program managed by Mersey Forest, called Nature4Health, where The Cass Foundation was a key delivery partner and contributed significantly toward the final outcomes of the report

Over this year we have been working closely with Brownlow Health to develop this social model of health. On the 27th June 2018 we organised a practical ‘Away Day’ with 160 of the Brownlow Health Practice staff to highlight the potential positive impact of social prescribing on their patients and their organisation. We had an uplifting and practical afternoon on one of the hottest days of the year, with talks and presentations by members of The Cass Foundation and Clare Mahoney from Liverpool CCG on the various positive benefits of the activities.

This was followed by a practical for the staff, with the choice of our typical menu of mindfulness based activities: ‘Drumming in Nature’, ‘Outdoor Yoga’, a ‘Nature Walk and Talk’, ‘Chi Gung’ or ‘Nature’s Therapy’; the idea being for all staff to experience a flavour of the activities that they would be promoting to patients.

Outdoor yoga with Brownlow Practice staff in Sefton Park
Outdoor yoga with Brownlow Practice staff in Sefton Park

It was a positive day and we are looking forward to further collaborative developments. We are contributors for the Liverpool Provider Alliance Leadership Group and are feeling hopeful about imminent positive change for improved health and wellbeing in the Liverpool area.

Outdoor Volunteering

Our next outdoor volunteering session in Dam Woods, with Lancashire Wildlife Trust and Friends of Croxteth Green Space will be on Saturday 19th January. Please note, we will not be having another session before Christmas but please get along to Dam Woods and enjoy the new network of paths that we have been working on, explore the area and appreciate all the time, hard work (and fun times) that have been put in by the volunteers.

What we've been up to

We've had a busy year! Since April 2017 our work has covered

236 Events and activity sessions

2465 engagements through events and activities

5304 hours of physical activity by participants and attendees at our events and activities

189 course participants via our Pathways to Active Lives project

502 Engagements through Pathways to Active Lives project including course participants, attendees at one off events and taster sessions.

Participants attending each of the five Pathways to Active Lives courses which were monitored using IPAQ and WEMWBS tools demonstrated improved wellbeing, increased physical activity and decreased sedentary behaviour

122 Course Sessions (Therapeutic Gardening, Nordic Walking and Health Walks) were delivered at Mersey Care Life Rooms

1234 attendances at Mersey Care Life Room Sessions

>65 course participants at Mersey Care Life Room Sessions

Using Recognised monitoring tools (IPAQ and WEMWBS), all of our courses at Life Rooms and during the Pathways to Active Lives project demonstrated:

o Improved well-being

o Increased daily physical activity

o Reduced sedentary behaviour

This year we were supported by:

22 Regular and event volunteers

118 Volunteer contributions

246 hours of volunteer time

With this in view, we are looking forward to \new projects in 2019.Until then, we wish you a wonderful December. We hope you will make time to get outdoors, whatever the weather, to enjoy the crisp night skies, the winter wonders and remember to feed the birds.

By cassfoundation, Nov 6 2018 12:59PM

Here at The Cass Foundation we are hard at work behind the scenes, seeking ways to improve our mission of building better places for people and wildlife. We have plenty of projects in the pipeline, but mostly, we are having a little reflection time, looking back at all our previous projects; assessing and monitoring and we hope, over the next season, to reflect on and share some of our successes, stories and case studies. We'll also introduce you to the team and share some of our stories and passions that all contribute to making The Cass Foundation such a burgeoning success story.

What we’re up to

At present, we are leading on a collaborative project, developing a further one and a half kilometres of path network in Dam Wood, in Croxteth, Liverpool. These woods have gradually become increasingly neglected over the years, resulting in fly tipping, anti-social behaviour and a very wet and muddy journey through the woods, virtually inaccessible for wheelchairs and buggies. Thanks to funding secured from Veolia Environmental Trust and Liverpool City Council, work began in July 2018, upgrading, repairing and resurfacing the path and addressing the quite severe drainage issues. Already it is in use, offering a safer and clearer route through the woods.

We are crossing fingers and holding thumbs for an additional funding application that would see a new creative art installation and entrance gate feature at the Fir Tree Drive and Oak Lane North entrance. Our vision is to brand Dam Wood as a creative educational resource, a community woodland that fires the imagination, spurs creativity and inspires learning. We would like to invite the community to co-design an arts trail snaking through the woods, linking the path with wider Croxteth and Liverpool, paving the way for Dam Woods to be recognised as a cultural woodland and a visitor destination.

Outdoor Volunteering

Alongside the path resurfacing, we have started monthly outdoor volunteering sessions. We have been managing the woods adjacent to the path, cutting back overgrown trees and hedges, especially Rhododendron, creating openings in the woods in preparation for outdoor activities and doing general habitat management, facilitated by Lancashire Wildlife Trust. We have had a good turnout over the past few sessions, averaging 12 – 14 participants, mostly members of Friends of Croxteth Green Spaces, The Cass Foundation staff and trustees, passers by and some very welcome newcomers.

A cuppa and a chat is a big part of our volunteering sessions
A cuppa and a chat is a big part of our volunteering sessions

A hot drink and a lot of chat is guaranteed and there are jobs suitable for all levels of energy, ability and expertise, no experience is necessary. We have many interesting activities planned for next year, including wildflower planting, tree planting, habitat surveys and bird and bat surveys, so make sure to follow us on Facebook to keep in the loop.

Conservation Task Days

As part of this programme, we have 10 conservation task days to offer local schools, businesses and community groups. We can tailor the sessions to the needs of your group and we think it’s a great alternative to a Christmas Celebration or night out. Come along and take part in supporting your local greenspace and have a hand in shaping the future of your environment. Give us a call for further information, tel: 0151 558 0886 or email: [email protected]

Why we clear Rhododendron

Rhododendron is not native to the UK and, as with many exotic flowering plants, was introduced by the Victorians. It is beautiful, and when in bloom we can see why it was so prolifically planted in parks and public grounds, providing a splash of vibrant colour with very little maintenance required.

Some say that Rhododendron is responsible for the destruction of many native habitats, leaving land abandoned throughout Britain because it is expensive to control and can physically make access difficult. When conditions are right, Rhododendron thrives and can outcompete most British plants. Its branches and leaves form a dense canopy, blocking out light and making it difficult for any other plants to grow or germinate. Without local plant life, wildlife is diminished as most Rhododendrons are quite toxic. Added to this is the sticky residue that covers the buds, discouraging insects from feasting, as well as being toxic. The older leaves are tough and unpalatable and poisoning can result if eaten by grazing animals. Because of this, grazing is also not an option to keep it in check. Once rhododendron has settled into an area, few native species can survive.

One of the volunteers cutting back the rhodododendron
One of the volunteers cutting back the rhodododendron

So, therefore one of the main tasks during our Outdoor volunteering days is to clear the Rhododendron. We cut it back and keep managing it as best we can, but still it will continue to spread through its large root system. We also need to remove the layer of woodland humus – layers upon layers of the toxic leaves that have been dropped over time, as these form a dense blanket, preventing new seeds from germinating and establishing.

This, too, is why we need an enthusiastic team of volunteers and Woodland Helpers to keep an eye out and pull up new Rhododendron plants as they emerge. For further information or to become a Friend of Croxteth Green Spaces, contact them on Facebook.

Until next time, enjoy the great outdoors.

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