A new social enterprise, currently being set up, is looking for board members.

Ecotherapy takes counselling outdoors in to an environment that is proven to be physically and psychologically beneficial.  Founder, Chip Ponsford is currently running the first Ecotherapy Group for Men Suffering with Depression, which has been funded by various local trusts and foundations via NDAS (Northumberland Domestic Abuse Services).  This six month project offers overwhelmed and socially isolated men a place in which they can safely begin to re-connect with their own experiences, with each other, and with the natural environment.  The project is now half way through and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Download the flyer.

A meeting will be held on a Friday in June for people interested in joining the Board. The meeting will be facilitated by Anne Lawson who works for Northumberland County Council advising on the set-up of social enterprises. It will be an opportunity to hear more about Ecotherapy, and ascertain what skills and experience people can offer in relation to what is needed for the enterprise to proceed to make it robust enough an organisation to apply for significant funding.

Chip said: "My initial plans are to grow this project, which is currently the only one of its kind in the UK, and to train counsellors interested in learning about person-centred Ecotherapy."

There are currently 3 board members:


  • Chip Ponsford (MBACP Accred) is a person-centred counsellor and supervisor with particular interest in and experience of working therapeutically with men outdoors. Whilst living in London, he facilitated a group for men convicted of serious offences at Katherine Price Hughes House in 2012;  worked with male torture survivors at The Refugee Therapy Centre, London; and with people with psychological distress and diagnoses in a number of settings including at Islington MIND, Highbury Counselling Centre, The Maytree Sanctuary for the suicidal. In 2015 he relocated to the North East so he could develop his outdoor work and private practice.


  • Richard Bliss is a freelance artist and arts project manager. He is currently working on The Quest for the Perfect Shirt, an Arts Council England funded project exploring masculinity, one shirt at a time. He is project managing community events associated with Our Petals are Kisses, the major exhibition by Turner Prize winner Lubaina Himid at Baltic (as part of The Great Exhibition of the North). Previous work includes working for Northern Stage (Newcastle) as Director of Communications, and Communications Officer forNorthern Arts/Arts Council England; project manager, performer and workshop leader for Queer Up North, Equal Arts, bait and Cultural Spring. In 2008 Richard founded the Community Interest Company Projects Galore and was Creative Director until 2018, when Richard left the company to pursue his own artistic projects. Richard served on the Board of Ballet Lorent for over 10 years, and was chair of the Board for 5 years. In 2016 Richard re-trained and spent over two years as a Domestic Abuse Practitioner (IDVA) Men and Boys for Northumberland Domestic Abuse Services. It was during this time that he raised funds for my current Ecotherapy project.


  • Andrew Calcott has thirty-three years experience working in mental health for the NHS. Prior to this, he was a clinical lead in Community Mental Health Crisis and Self Harm Services.  He is a Registered Mental Nurse and from 2009 he worked as a Psychological Therapist in Northumberland Primary Care mental health service. He has trained in person-centred counselling, behavioural psychotherapy and (in 2006) an MA in Solution Focused Brief Therapy. He was the chair of the UK Association for Solution Focused Practice. Bringing knowledge of NHS mental health services as well as clinical governance and safe practice, Andrew will be helping us connect with NHS services in the area in order to bring in referrals.


  • Rab Erskine is not a board member, but is a crucial part of this enterprise as a co-facilitator. He is a person-centred counsellor with 32 years' experience of working therapeutically outdoors.  He has run a counselling service in primary care for the last twenty two years. From 1995 to 2005, Rab ran a small company offering short term residential ‘Wilderness Based” therapeutic experiences to individuals and groups referred from social work, education and NHS secondary care referrers. From 2005 to 2016 he was commissioned to run the Going Places project for the Borders NHS Adult Mental Health Psychiatric rehabilitation Service. Rab is a practitioner member of Cosca  (Confederation of Scottish Counselling agencies).


Chip and Rab are planning to publish in the PCEP Journal - wapcepc (https://www.pce-world.org/pcep-journal.html) which will include a robust description of the rational behind this unique project.  They are also members of the Pre-Therapy International Network and will be presenting their work to the network in Ghent, Belgium in October 2018.

They are looking for a minimum of 2 more trustees with an interest in men’s mental health and nature and with skills such as:

  • Finance
  • PR / Marketing
  • Legal/governance
  • Operations - (contact for things not dealt with elsewhere - ‘firefighting’)
  • Policies and procedures
  • Strategic and business planning 
  • Stakeholder engagement - ensure org is fulfilling needs of stakeholders + stays ‘real and effective’


If you are interested in becoming a board member, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.