This month’s blog is written by John Durrant who is taking part in the Burgh Castle Almanac, a project focused on historic landscapes and mental wellbeing. More about this project can be found at the almanac website:

Hello everyone, I hope you are all well and enjoying good mental health. I’ve been asked to write for the Norfolk Archaeological Trust about the Burgh Castle project I am involved with.

The group is called The Burgh Castle Almanac group. We meet up in the village hall at Burgh Castle each week and walk up to the castle where we take fixed spot photographs around the site. This is all over the year, and you can see the changes in the site over the different seasons. We have all been given some cameras, so we can take different photos throughout the site.

I can remember my first session. I didn’t really talk to anybody, as it was a new group, with people I had never met before, and I feel awkward and anxious in situations like this. But everyone within the group acknowledged me, which made me feel at ease and the facilitators made me feel welcome, and ensured no one was left out.

This project has had a positive impact on my mental health. It is a two-year project, which I think has helped me a lot, because when I get used to something, it can suddenly stop, which can have a huge impact on my mental wellbeing. Causing more anxiety and stress because it has stopped and there is nothing to soften the impact. But with this project, you have time to get to understand how things work and you know when it will finish, and things are put into place to help the transition to not doing it anymore.

I think this is how more projects should be run. People with mental health have good days and bad days, and with a long running project, such as the Burgh Castle project, it helps people in a much more positive way. For instance, if you can’t make a session because of any issue, you’re not kicked off, or moaned at, like I have experienced in the past. And you’re never judged for not being able to attend.

I’ve completed activities I never thought I would do. Arty stuff, a walk on the river Thames and attending the Houses of Parliament. I’ve also been able to blog about my experiences and thoughts of the things I have done and seen, which in turn has helped me with my mental health journey.

I can say that this project has brought out the best in me. It has taught me that anything is possible, I am referring to the arty things I have been involved with, trust me, art and me are not best of friends, but to try and complete the little projects, was and is a huge achievement for me, especially as it has taught me to be more patient with myself, and control my anger a little bit better than before. I won’t be painting for any art gallery or making any arty things soon, but I did it, and surprisingly I enjoyed it. I have to admit, I am rather chuffed with the wooden spoon I whittled!

It’s not just the projects we get to do that makes this such a fantastic experience. Burgh Castle is a beautiful site, and the photographs we have taken do not do it justice. I have always been interested in the history of things, and this has been a pleasure and a privilege, being a part of this group.

Would I recommend this project if it was offered to you? One hundred percent yes, not only for your mental health but for the knowledge you learn from the site itself and the projects you take part in. The team that organizes this, are fantastic, I cannot praise them enough.

I think I may have gushed enough about this, but I am very passionate about how this has affected my life, so please bear with me.

I will leave you all now, feeling positive and happy, and I wish you all a great mental health, wherever and whoever you are.

Thanks for listening


Image: Todd Sullivan