What is Gul?
Gul Outdoor Therapy, is a registered charity providing therapeutic activities in an outdoor setting. Gul’s primary provision is Equine Assisted Therapy (using horses and associated activities to improve well-being) but also includes outdoor education, navigation, work placements, apprenticeships, gardening and more.
The charity was founded in 2003 by a small church community, putting into practice what they had always believed, that being outside is good for a person and that, with vision and support, Gul can change the lives of individuals who are isolated and vulnerable. While the charity was founded by passionate Christians and named as such, Gul has always been open to all, regardless of faith or background.
Gul operates from its 19-acre stable yard and woodland (Riverside) in Shrewton, Wiltshire (near Stonehenge), and provides services to Hampshire, Wiltshire, Somerset, and Dorset. The charity also maintains another site in Shrewton, The Bustard, as well as supporting two sites in Wales.
If you or someone you know are facing challenges in your personal situation and feel that being outdoors or around horses would help then just drop us an email on [email protected] or call us on 07970 377 730. Gul is open to anyone who needs it.
Most of Gul’s work is with young people who use its service to add to or replace bits of their education, as such most of our referrals come via either council youth services or education providers. Gul always encourages parents, carers and other service providers to get in touch with us too as we can accept referrals via this route too.
Your journey at Gul will begin by contacting our team, they will then send you information to complete and return, once this has happened we can advise if we can help or not (we often can) and will call you to book an assessment, this is a free assessment with one of our team at which we all have a chance to meet and chat about what we wish to achieve from our time together. At this point, the team will suggest goals to work towards while at Gul, this can be a simple as making a friend or build confidence. The individual’s progress towards set goals is constantly reviewed and reported on every 6 weeks changes to the provision are made as needed, Gul aims to be as flexible as possible as the charity recognizes that all its users are individuals and have different needs.
Users generally attend Gul for at least one academic term and no longer than 6 terms, although the charity does not put a fixed time limit on our provision.
Since 2006 Gul’s core projects have focused on the provision of outdoor activities, principally equine-assisted therapy and outdoor learning for groups of disadvantaged individuals. Central to this is the belief that being outdoors and away from modern distractions is good for people.
Over time Gul has developed its provision to be youth-focused and now works alongside, parents, over 30 educational establishments of all age groups and Wiltshire Council’s young people departments to offer complementary services for those who are struggling in, or not attending, mainstream education.
Gul offers users packages of activities, such as outdoor learning or equine-assisted therapy designed by a trained clinician. Beneficiaries attend Gul for sessions ranging from 15 minutes to multiple full days, working with a therapist or staff member individually or in groups depending on need.
Each week 150 users access Gul’s provision with 69% of these being young people aged 0-25, the rest, adults. A typical beneficiary stays with Gul for a full academic year, and because approximately 30% of individuals change each term, Gul’s services directly support over 350 individuals each year. As Gul’s provision also provide support and relief to families and support networks surrounding the individual, the overall number of people benefiting for Gul services is much higher than this but this is not something Gul currently measures.
Every year, Gul provides over 7000 hours of equine-assisted therapy, award 150 riding and navigation awards and over 200 participation rosettes from its Riverside site. Gul plans and leads 2 youth-led events such as our successful PULSE camps. In 2017, Gul acted as a springboard for young people attending to re-engage with mainstream education parents often comment on the marked improvement in confidence in their young people and this has many positive effects in their lives in general.
Gul receives referrals from to 4 NHS Trusts, 6 County Councils, over 50 Primary Schools, 3 Secondary Schools, 2 colleges and 2 Universities as well as having partnerships with local community organisations such as, Community First, The Building Bridges Programme and through Involve Swindon, national businesses such as Lloyds Bank, Nationwide, MACE construction, AVIVA and Tesco all of whom support Gul with volunteer projects.
A typical Gul story,
“In agreement with his school, our son needed equine therapy to help him deal with his emotions more effectively. He needed help in gaining confidence so that he could more freely express himself. Over the course of the year that our son attended Gul he has grown in confidence considerably (with other children attending therapy sessions as well as with the staff at Gul and has also thoroughly enjoyed the outdoor activities (regardless of the weather). He has especially enjoyed earning rosettes when he has achieved various skill levels and has been able to try his hand at activities he may not otherwise have done such as woodwork (where he’s made a bird box and stool), building campfires and learning how to light them (as well as cooking bacon sarnies and toasting marshmallows on them!), learning how to look after horses and the equipment they use as well as riding them.
Its been a pleasure to see our son grow in confidence and to see the smile on his face when he talks about all he’s been up to at GUL!”
Gul’s provision increases the opportunities for young people experiencing difficulties. Achieving even small goals can transform young people’s outlook on the world. Gul regularly receives feedback such as the one above and this positive effect is also felt by the families and support agencies surrounding beneficiaries, who as a result are less troubled by the needs of the person in their care. Gul regularly records satisfaction levels of over 95% of those attending its services. On leaving Gul beneficiaries, go on to engage more fully with a formal school placement or seek specialist provision elsewhere. Gul does not receive formal progress reports of historic beneficiaries but is now in the fortunate position of seeing young people who started Gul aged 8 take their first steps to employment as happy confident adults, indeed one such person has recently been employed by the charity.
The charity was founded in 2003 by Plain Church Celtic Community (a small Celtic Christian community). Beginning with “Rides with Jake” from the home of one of the charity’s founding members Dr Celia Grummitt, all those involved in the set up quickly saw the great need for our provision as a steady stream of people arrived who could benefit from even the very basic provision Gul could offer.
“Rides with Jake” continued for a few years before the decision was taken to register Gul as a Charity in 2006. With the charity’s registration came the purchase of its first site, Byways, this 7-acre stable yard became home to a small herd of ponies and was at the heart of our provision for 3 years.
In 2009 the real test for Gul arrived as the site the charity had been renting for a number of years came up for sale. Riverside was everything Gul had dreamed of (well it will be eventually), 19 acres of mixed paddocks and woodland, the site was too good to pass up. Being adventurous types, the members of Plain Church clubbed together and bought the site with their savings.. it took almost all they had but they did it – Riverside was born.
It turns out the story wasn’t finished there and in 2010 another site in Shrewton came up for sale. The Bustard Hotel was a site in desperate need of renovation, a former public house and BnB, the old pub gave Gul the chance to provide residential accommodation for those attending Riverside and beyond. The Bustard proved to be a real challenge as the members had cleaned out their savings purchasing Riverside, so to purchase The Bustard too they needed to raise extra capital, they did this by selling property and re-mortgaging homes, a huge risk and a big leap of faith. The church members knew that this was the right thing to do and now, nearly 10 years later, they have been proved right. The Bustard is key to Gul’s provision, it provides an indoor space for fundraising and tuition, secure office space for the charities HQ as well as 6 en-suite rooms for residents.
From small beginnings with Jake the Shetland pony, to 16 ponies, over 100 acres of outdoor space, a residential center and over 20,000 hours of provision in 2017. Gul has grown beyond what its founders thought possible and now looks to a bright future helping disadvantaged people across the south of England and Wales.
All of this would have been impossible without the hard work and support of Gul’s Members and volunteers, especially Plain Church. Plain Church worships weekly in Shrewton, more information can be found here. In founding the charity Gul Outdoor Therapy, church members were able to serve their wider community, demonstrate their faith and in so doing help those in significant need. Today Plain Church supports Gul with volunteers but the services provided at Gul are non-denominational and non-ecumenical meaning that the charity welcomes anyone through its doors who seek its help.