From conversions to conservation: Broughton Ladies reconnect through nature

From conversions to conservation: Broughton Ladies reconnect through nature

This week (10-16 May) is Mental Health Awareness Week, with this year's theme being nature.

Throughout this week Scottish Rugby will be sharing stories from clubs across Scotland and how they use nature to provide mental wellbeing support to their members. Today we start with Broughton RFC.

Considered Edinburgh’s hidden gem, the Water of Leith flows for 24 miles from its source in the Pentland Hills, through the heart of the capital to its outflow into the Firth of Forth at Leith.

Although a wonderful natural asset to the city, with the river being in such close quarters to human activity, it needs regular maintenance. And that’s where Broughton Ladies rugby team comes in.

In absence of training, the team have taken to the great outdoors, volunteering with the Water of Leith Conservation Trust. Beginning in October 2020, the group has since been volunteering at least once a month since.

Speaking to scottishrugby.org, Broughton’s Kirsty Fraser (27) talks about her experience and the positive impacts getting into nature with her teammates has had for her wellbeing.

“We were encouraged to volunteer by our Assistant Coach Johnny who is involved with the Water of Leith Conservation Trust,” said Kirsty.

“He’d put it forward to us as a sort of alternative rugby training activity, like ‘chopping down trees will help you in the line out, sweeping will help with your core for scrums’. Initially we thought we were just being tricked into doing some gardening. I’m not a natural gardener so I didn’t know what to expect, but it’s actually really fun and I’ve got a lot out of it."


“I’ve realised over the course of the pandemic that rugby is such a huge part of my life, not just in terms of the playing but the social side too. We’ve gone from seeing people two or three times a week to nothing, and that’s been quite hard." Kirsty, Broughton Ladies

Kirsty (left) with team-mate Charlotte (right) ready for another volunteering session along the banks of the Water of Leith.

“Although we have been volunteering under all the correct government guidance, it has kind of felt like a loophole because it’s a great chance to socialise with your teammates. It’s that double benefit of getting to hang out with my friends but you’re out in nature and being productive too. It feels very wholesome.”

Kirsty, who is an Accountant, has been working from home since March 2020, an environment which for many people across the world has felt isolating.

“I think mental health-wise, it’s not been a good year for anyone. Volunteering with the Trust has been a good way to get out, especially when we’ve been stuck indoors so often. It feels like a bit of a Godsend, particularly for those of us who have been living on our own. It’s good to know you have that one day scheduled in to get out and do your bit.”

Along with reaping the rewards on a personal level, the team have seen their experience volunteering as a great way to give back to their local community too, as Kirsty added: “The area we’ve been working on is local to our home at Wardie. Knowing that chopping down overgrown branches, sweeping the leaves and clearing up rubbish will make the area more accessible and support wildlife is a great feeling.

“We also secured a £500 grant from my workplace to get wooden planters for bulbs which we planted. It does feel like you’re leaving a bit of a legacy there because people will be able to enjoy that for time to come.”

Scottish Rugby’s Regional Director for the East region, David Drummond said: “I really commend Broughton Ladies work with the Water of Leith Conservation Trust. Not only has their volunteering been a great way to support each other’s mental and physical wellbeing, they have done tremendous job in giving back to community and helping the wildlife better thrive.

“Conservation of natural environments is really important, and from hearing Kirsty’s experience it’s clear there are many wellbeing benefits attributed to this activity too. There are lots of excellent conservation organisations across the East region, so I’d love to see more clubs reach out to these groups and lend a hand.”

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