Finding healing and purpose: A journey of willow weaving

Stepladder is our men’s mental health project in Somerset. Its aim is to create safe environments for men to discuss their mental health concerns openly and to connect with local services, support networks and activities. The Winston Innovation Fund was set up by Stepladder to provide grants for various initiatives to support men’s mental health and wellbeing. These include establishing or supporting projects, events, training programmes, and groups.

Ark at Egwood is one initiative Stepladder has supported with one of its grants. We spoke to Warren, who has been attending Ark for the past couple of years, initially to address his feelings of isolation and depression. Little did he know when he first joined a willow weaving course, it would be a lifechanging experience. Not only has he discovered a real passion for the craft, but thanks to the grant he now runs workshops himself where he can also help others.

“Ark provides a safe and inclusive outdoor environment for people of all ages and varying needs to connect with others. The Stepladder innovation funding has really helped make a difference to Warren, by providing him the opportunity to purchase equipment to run willow weaving workshops for peers, which has boosted his confidence and supported his journey of recovery and looking forward to a brighter and happier future”

Nigel Bell, Chief Executive of Ark

Ark receives referrals from community mental health teams, GP surgeries, and village agents for people struggling with their mental health.

Initiatives like Ark and projects like Stepladder can help people pursue their passions and create truly positive change in their lives. Read more about Warren’s inspiring story below and discover how willow weaving has transformed his life.

“I first started attending Ark back in June 2021 as a recommendation from the mental health team at Yeovil. I was introduced to a series of mental health and wellbeing courses which I attended. One of the classes was a willow weaving course. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I’ve been practising it ever since.

When I was first referred there, I was struggling with depression. I felt isolated and very shy, and I didn’t enjoy interacting with people at all. However, over the past couple of years, the supportive community has helped me break out of my shell.

Working with willow takes my mind off things, and it becomes my sole focus. I only have to think about where the next piece goes and how the shape is forming. It helps me forget about my worries.

Thanks to the funding we received from Stepladder, we were able to purchase more tools and plant our own bed of willow trees. We now have better quality willow available, both from our own farm and from commercial sources. This funding has made everything much more manageable and has allowed me to start my own willow weaving workshops to help other people find a passion and be social through a creative hobby.

Initially, I doubted if I would fit in here, but the people have been incredibly kind and accepting towards me, just as they are with everyone else. Men tend to avoid discussing these issues, which is a problem in itself. Stepladder is helping to address this by bringing men together in group settings where they can relax and talk about their problems. It’s reassuring to know that you’re not alone with your struggles.

One of the key points I’ve realised is that until you participate in these groups and openly discuss your experiences with others, you may not realise that you’re not alone at all. I would like to express my deep gratitude to the amazing individuals working at Ark. Their encouragement and praise have motivated me to continue my journey with willow. I truly feel that I have found my calling in life, from creating willow sculptures to engaging in traditional basket weaving. Thank you all for allowing me to pursue this wonderful path.”

Visit the Stepladder section on our website for more information and to find a local activity or group to join in your area. You can find the link here.

Share this page