Veterans plant thousands of trees across Greater Manchester

A team of ex-servicemen and women are learning about the environment as they plant thousands of trees across the city region in a programme designed to build their employment opportunities and improve their mental health.

OP-REGEN is a volunteer programme run by military charity, Walking With The Wounded (WWTW), who have partnered with us to offer paid short-term work to ex-servicemen and women to plant thousands of trees in Oldham, Bury, Rochdale, Tameside, Wigan and Salford.

The team who have served in the Armed Forces are now learning:

  • How to plan and create new woodlands
  • The steps involved in establishing woodlands
  • New practical skills

The veterans are provided with training and tools and measures are in place to observe social distancing throughout.

Scott Briggs, OP-REGEN Project Manager, says: “Walking With The Wounded works with ex-military in the UK to support a pathway for disadvantaged veterans to reintegrate back into society and to sustain their independence.

“This programme has been brilliant. We have 14 former veterans who are all learning new skills in paid employment, meeting people and having a positive impact on the communities where they live.

“It’s great to see the team share their experiences and talk to other individuals from a similar background.”

Kevin Wigley, Operations Manager from City of Trees, says: “We work with lots of community groups to deliver tree planting sessions. Working with the veterans has been great. They’ve all got stuck in and worked really hard to plant trees as the planting season draws to a close.

“We know that nature has huge benefits for our mental and physical health and I hope these veterans have benefited from the programme as we will all benefit from the trees that they’ve planted.”

About the Veterans

Adam 26, from Urmston, served in the Army with the Royal Logistic Corps as a chef. He was medically discharged in 2019 after a road traffic accident left him with life-changing injuries in 2016. Adam suffered injuries to his legs, arms and skull resulting in a traumatic brain injury. He has been with Walking With The Wounded for around 18 months and loves taking part in the programmes.

He said: “I love being outdoors. I’ve met loads of people through OP-REGEN and made some good friends. I was getting really bored and depressed being at home and this programme has been great for lifting my spirits.

“Although I find it hard to dig, we have a system in place where I can contribute in different areas. It’s good teamwork just like in the military...I like to let everyone know when it’s break time at 10.30 too.”

Watch a short film about this project on the City of Trees YouTube channel here.

About Walking With The Wounded

Walking With The Wounded (‘WWTW’) delivers life-changing employment, mental health and care coordination programmes for ex-servicemen and women and their families who are in need – empowering them to regain their independence, thrive and contribute once more.

The charity develops innovative initiatives in partnership with the NHS to target veterans who are physically, mentally, or socially disadvantaged and deliver significant social impact. The focus is often on early intervention to help break the downward spiral which creates a disproportionately high number of ex-military within homeless, police custody, unemployment and mental health statistics.

Anyone interested in volunteering for Walking With The Wounded can get involved with the charity’s new OP-REGEN initiative and help bring positive change to communities across the UK. For more information, contact Georgia Horne Georgia@wwtw.org.uk or call 01263 863 901.