Ex-Royal Marine sets up woodland retreat for PTSD sufferers

Support us and go ad-free

A former Royal Marine is using his woodland getaway to help soldiers and police recover from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Nick Goldsmith runs Woodland Warriors in Pensford, Somerset, teaching men and women skills like building shelters and carving tent pegs while helping them deal with grief and adjusting to civilian life.

Goldsmith developed PTSD around 2014 after four tours on the front line in Afghanistan and said spending time in the wild, building fires and working the land, was the “only thing” that kept him going.

The father-of-one, who served in the British Army for 11 years, said:

The longer I spend in this environment, working in this way, the more truly human I feel again.

Undated handout photo from BBC showing Nick Goldsmith (right) with a group on his Woodland Warriors programme in Somerset
Nick Goldsmith (right) with a group on his Woodland Warriors programme (BBC/PA)

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Goldsmith continued:

As far as I knew, I was going to be a Royal Marine for another 12 years at least and that suddenly came to a full stop.

The only thing that felt right for me to do was to come into somewhere I had a brilliant childhood – amongst the trees.

Goldsmith and his wife, Louise, launched the programme in 2016 on land they had bought four years previously, and it currently runs three or four times a year.

It recently gained financial backing from the Endeavour Fund, a charity supported by the Duke of Sussex, meaning there are now places for 72 people next year.

Former armed police officer Helen Barnett is one of those to take the course, having been shot, stabbed and blown up in the line of duty in the space of four years.

“I was caught up in an incident where four of us were stabbed by the same guy. I was stabbed in the stomach, which sent me flying backwards, my white shirt literally turned red,” she said.

“Up until that point, I felt I was pretty indestructible really.”

Later, she was blown off her feet by a bomb in a shopping centre, and was then shot on Boxing Day 1994, leading to her displaying signs of PTSD.

She said:

I didn’t go back to work after that – loud noises would make me want to hit the ground. I was feeling angry and a bit lost really.

I think being outdoors is the key to my coping with everything. It’s the simplicity of it all.

A study by Kings College London found 17% of service personnel who served in combat roles in Iraq and Afghanistan were subsequently diagnosed with PTSD.

The Woodland Warriors programme will feature in an episode of BBC Inside Out West on Monday at 7.30 pm and will be available on iPlayer afterwards.

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us